Esther was stoic, rational, pragmatic. If she was sick, depressed, or otherwise in pain, she probably wouldn’t tell us. She was of that era where mental illness simply wasn’t discussed.
Esther had a home. The same home she grew up in with both of her parents and her brothers and sisters and always, the family dog. She wasn’t old, she wasn’t homeless. She had, in fact, retired early with plenty of money. Single and childfree, Esther enjoyed the fruits of her labor, spending time with friends, traveling abroad and collecting art. She was well educated, fun and funny.
We talk a lot about Esther, my friends and I. How did things get so bad? What did we miss? How could we have helped? What was going on in her head? For us the answers seem clear, but chances are, it was complicated.
Esther was stoic, rational, pragmatic. If she was sick, depressed, or otherwise in pain, she probably wouldn’t tell us. She was of that era where mental illness simply wasn’t discussed. Not only was it not discussed, it would also not have been labeled an illness or even recognized as an illness. She had hip surgery, but that was different. For anything else, she’d put on a brave face and carry on. Never in a million years would she think therapy could help. Esther never asked for help, for anything.
We may have been able to help Esther. Maybe we should have paid more attention, asked more questions. We couldn’t save Esther, but we can save others like her. It will take energy, programming, money, commitment—all of us working together to address the stigma associated with mental illness, to assure easy and immediate access for those who need help now and to help address mental illness in all of its complexities.