I went to college for social work a number of years back and part of the course was to go through a wide variety of mental illnesses that we may encounter when it was time to join the workforce. A low grade depression has been part of my life since I came out of the womb so I had a basic understanding already what the disorder entailed but it was not til I suffered my crash did I really understand.
I never understood the impact that depression could have on someones life until I had to fight to save my own. I understand being in a position so helpless where suicide is not only a option but the best thing that I have seen in a long time. Emotional pain so intense that I would grab a razor to allow it all to come out and not caring if I went to far and my life spilled out of my body. I distanced myself from friends and family not because I did not want their support but I needed to simplify my life as much as possible in order to make it through the day. How do you explain to a loved one that you know that they would be impacted if you took your own life but you needed the pain to go away. That the thoughts and images flashing through your brain at the speed of a runaway train are so intense that the thought of forever silence seems like a dream come true. The strength it takes to battle depression is so extreme my body would collapse for up to sixteen hours at a time to recover. Going into a doctors or therapist office and trying to explain to them the amount of pain you are in is so unbelievably difficult at times for they just don't get it as you can not understand hell until you have walked through it. When a teenager would approach me at work to say he was depressed the dialog he presented was scattered and at times confusing but I would know he was in trouble by the look in his eyes I just never realized how bad it could get, now I know. I would never wish depression on my worst nightmare but if all the mental professionals could experience a deep and dark depression for a few hours I bet the communication in their offices would be a lot more clear then it is now as some things you can not learn in a book. I don't believe that suicide is ever the right answer but I understand the emotions that lead to it and why someone would choose this route. Think about the last time you really stubbed your toe and trying to explain the pain to two people, the first has stubbed his or her toe in the past and the second has never experienced this but read it in a book now which one is going to be able to empathize to a higher degree and quicker to understand. Now lets say with the same incident you had to describe the pain a second after you stubbed your toe and you will have an idea the difficulty it is to explain to a mental professional about the hell your going through as all you can see is the pain and not the reasons behind it or the ability to clearly describe it.
I believe that anyone who is in the mental health profession has a huge heart to want to help the people most of society has written off or looks down at. A good percentage of people who work with people that have substance abuse problems are in recovery from substance abuse and they tend to be good at what they do for they know what their clients are experiencing to a high degree so it is easy for them to relate and then help. So do I believe you need a traumatic event or personal experience with mental disorder in able to better serve their clients? No as this is not realistic but the therapeutic community always needs people who have fought and won the battle against the monsters of mental illness to help save others and make a difference. Volunteer your time, post on the wide variety of health forums on the web and do what you can for as you are helping others you also are helping yourself with the reminders of what you did to win your personal war. When I go see a mental professional for the first time I am not hoping that they will be able to cure me but I am hoping that they understand and maybe that will make my fight easier as I am reminded I am not alone which means the world to me.