San Diego, California - Diana Waugh is a survivor of suicide loss – not once, but twice. Today, Waugh, 71, spoke at a news conference to release the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council Report to the Community.
The North Park resident decided to share her story to raise awareness about depression and suicide. She recounts her struggles here in her own words.
“Stigma and lack of information about depression killed both my parents…and almost killed me.
My mother died by suicide at age 50. There were several events that happened in a row that should have been a clue that she was in trouble. However, the family didn’t see it.
She was in menopause and seemed worried about getting old. She quit a job she loved and moved with my father from California to Montana in the middle of winter. My father shortly thereafter asked her for a divorce. Her beloved dog died, she had no job or friends since she was 20 miles away from her nearest neighbor. My normally happy and vivacious mother thought her life was over. She then took her life. The family was grief stricken, angry and ashamed. Suicide was considered an act of cowardice and not talked about.
Suicide is like terrorism in a family—the result is devastating.
My father was never the same after mother’s suicide. He took his own life 25 years later at age 79. He complained a lot about getting old. He had various aches and pains, was irritable and “cranky” and listless. He could not concentrate and was having trouble sleeping. He did not want to do anything. He quit the loves of his life—hunting and fishing. The family just accepted that this was part of getting old. He continuously complained about his symptoms to his doctor up until the week he took his life.
I know Dad would have thought it a weakness to talk about his feelings. He’d been taught that men should be strong. Even though he exhibited all the physical signs of depression, he was never diagnosed or treated for it.
I suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and went into a deep depression after my father’s suicide. I was 52. I had been a dynamic, energetic person with a successful career who could no longer concentrate and my job suffered. I was irritable, negative and listless. I did not want to do anything. I ached all over. I felt like my legs were encased in cement. Eventually, I could not get out of bed or do even basic things to take care of myself. I lost my job and isolated from everyone. My life was empty and gray. I was ashamed, afraid and hopeless.
I wanted to take my own life but I remembered the pain and suffering I had gone through after both my parents’ suicide, and I did not want my family to suffer the same. I asked for help.
My sister took to me to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with clinical major depression. He explained I had a brain disorder and, just like a diabetic, would probably need to take medication for the rest of my life. I was relieved. It wasn’t that I was weak or had a moral defect; I had a disease of the brain.
My lack of information, fear, guilt and shame prevented me from getting treatment earlier. As a result, I lost my job, my home and suffered health and dental problems that could have been avoided if I’d known more about my illness.
I still suffer from depression, but medication and therapy have helped me regain clearer thinking, a purpose and joy in my life again.
I hope that my experiences have opened your eyes and hearts about depression and suicide in our community.
We can no longer remain ignorant and apathetic about depression and suicide. The attitude that ‘everyone gets depressed-just get over it’ does nothing to support those in need.”
For more information about suicide, risk factors, warning signs, how to get help, resources and training that is available, visit It’s Up to Us or call the County’s Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240