What most people don’t know about clinical depression is quite a lot. I have personally been diagnosed with it, and yet I am in no way an expert about its biological intricacies. What I do know and what I can tell you is that clinical depression is not equivalent to simple sadness. So to tell a person who suffers from any clinical form of depression to “try and cheer up”, “do something fun to get your mind off things”, or any number of other suggestions that have nothing to do with fixing brain chemistry or psychological trauma, is frankly dismissive and unhelpful. What is helpful, is for those who do suffer from a form of clinical depression to seek treatment.
If you have followed me this far, I sincerely thank you, my Little Monsters. I promise I will tie Lights Out to my spiel, but if you haven’t seen it…be warned, there are SPOILERS ahead.
The basic premise of Lights Out is that there is a malevolent entity, named Diana, that is in some way attached to Maria Bello’s character, Sophie. Along the way it is revealed to the audience, that Sophie suffers from clinical depression. When Sophie is following her treatment regimen and things are good in her life, Diana does not manifest. However, when Sophie neglects her treatment and plunges back into a depressive state, things in her life spiral downward allowing Diana to becomes an evil and destructive presence in her life. Of course Diana can only exist in darkness and disappears when the lights are on. One could perceive Diana as a metaphor for the pain and anguish that clinical depression not only causes the sufferer, but also their family and close friends. This can be seen in the way that Diana (the possible metaphor for depression) torments Sophie’s son and daughter throughout the film. Diana is also clearly responsible for both of Sophie’s husband’s deaths.
Where this story takes an irresponsible turn, is in a mother’s solution to save her children from any further torment, danger and pain. Knowing that the only way to completely be rid of Diana is for herself to no longer be around, Sophie shoots herself in the head. That’s right, the climactic on screen moment of heroism carried out to eliminate the evil entity that is attached to a woman who suffers terribly from depression, is for that woman to commit suicide. THAT is an incredibly irresponsible message to put out there. Because it’s not just this one moment, but also the fact that it is illustrated throughout the film that she has not been treating her illness. Despite their intentions, it could seem as if the filmmakers may be unintentionally implying that suicide is a valid way for a depression sufferer to save ones family and friends from enduring further misery as a result of this affliction. Certainly they could have come up with some other way of defeating the entity or not had Sophie’s character be diagnosed with clinical depression, but we all know what they say about hindsight.
Now I know what some of you are thinking, and yes altruistic acts of self sacrifice often happen in movies. But this one in particular stuck with me, because the character taking her life is herself a depression sufferer and that hits closer to home. Especially when you consider the susceptibility of depressives to suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th highest cause of death in the United States and claims over 44, 000 lives a year. That’s an average of just over 120 lives lost every day. And while these may seem like relatively small numbers to some, it’s tragic that a statistical category for such deaths even has to exist. Granted, not all are the result of depression, but a greater understanding of this illness could help to prevent or at the very least reduce deaths in this particular category.
Whether they are implicit or explicit, suicidal acts are not likely to disappear from movies. There are still going to be instances where it will be a plot point in films going forward. But it is reckless to lend any sense of courage or heroism to such an act, especially if and when the person committing the act is doing so as a result being afflicted with any form of depression. Filmmakers have the ability to use their medium to help create a better understanding of this condition, by shining a light on the darkness brought on by depression.
If you or someone you love and care about suffers from depression or displays suicidal tendencies, be vigilant, be patient, but above all be informed. Below are a few resources for anyone who is in need of help or feels someone they know may be. There are many more out here to be found, you need only look for them. Thank you for sticking with me all the way to the end of the article, my Little Monsters. Just remember, we’re all in this together.
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