Suffering from mental illness is real
Personal Stories | April 7, 2023 | Jean Frost
My husband died by suicide at age 74 in March of 2018. John was a brilliant scientist studying how glaciers shaped our landscape. He was a gifted teacher and a wonderful father. His family, friends, and students loved him deeply. John also suffered from bipolar disorder and had experienced periods of hypomania and severe depression for most of his adult life.
In early March, John was coming down from an extended period of hypomania and knew he was almost certainly going to face severe depression before stabilizing. He also had to face some consequences of his actions during the period of hypomania. John had gone through this difficult, painful experience more than once before.
Suicide is devastating to those left behind. I try to respect John’s decision that he had had enough of fighting his illness. But I believe that had John known medical assistance in dying (MAID) was a possibility, he might still be with us today. He would have been able to reach out for medical and family consultation before making his decision.
John’s decision might have been quite different, or it might not have been. If he believed he couldn’t face the cycles of his mental illness any longer, he may not have died alone. John may have been with his sons and with me, knowing we loved him, and we would have accepted his choice.
I firmly believe we should be able to choose when we wish to live and when we wish to die, including those who live with longstanding, treatment-resistant mental illness. And we should be able to die with dignity.