"Suicide" is such a heavy word. It weighs on my heart and past, anchoring me to the present. It reminds me of what I've been through and where I've come from. I know that I can continue on, because I have, even through the darkest times.

I have depression—and I always will. It's one of those things that run on both sides of my family, like breast cancer, only we don't talk about it as much. We talk about how many women in our family have struggled with breast cancer and how we should all get mammograms, but we never talk about how we also struggle with anxiety and depression. No one ever suggested that I should see a therapist if I start feeling overwhelmed.

Instead, society has led us to believe that if your mind is sick, you are crazy and worthless. In reality, many valuable members of society have depression. J.K. Rowling, a talented author, has depression. Actress Uma Thurman and singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow have depression. Even Abraham Lincoln suffered from it! Why, then, do we shove this subject under the rug?

I think that suicide is a symptom of depression, and if we only took better care of each other, we would lose less amazing people. In some ways, my depression has made me a better person. I am more sensitive to others' emotions and stronger mentally after everything I've been through. I have wanted to take my life in the past, but made it out of those dark times thanks to the support and love from my family and friends.

The worst thing that can happen to you when you're depressed is to feel even more alone. Sometimes, being alone can be a good thing, but when you are hurting so much inside, you might not know how to reach out. In 2008, I created a pen pal support group for people with depression. The project was wildly successful, and hundreds of letters and emails were sent across the world. By reaching out to each other, we all became less alone.

During this week, I ask you to do one simple thing: smile at strangers. You never know when you might light up someone's bad day. Make yourself available to those who need to talk. If you're struggling, reach out. You are not alone. There is always someone who cares, whether it's a trusted family member or friend, or a licensed practitioner who can get you the help you need.

Let's start a conversation about mental illness.

Elizabeth Barone writes New Adult drama with grit—fiction that focuses on the things that twenty-somethings deal with. Her novels, short stories, and serials explore themes such as depression, addiction, and other real-life situations. She aims to start a conversation about mental illness with her second novel, Crazy Comes in Threes, due out in December. Elizabeth was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2004.

When she is not writing, Elizabeth enjoys playing The Sims 3 and Plants vs. Zombies, embroidering, and watching Indianapolis Colts games. She lives in Waterbury, Connecticut. Connect with her on her website, or chat with her on Twitter.



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