Depression is a mental illness affecting millions in the United States. Health officials estimate some 8 to 17 percent of Americans will be afflicted at some point in their lives. It causes deep, unshakable sadness and diminished interest in life. Major depression can dramatically impair a personâ€™s ability to function, and some have such deep feelings of despair and hopelessness that they consider suicide.
Thatâ€™s what happened to Lincoln School Board member Fred Jarrett, who spoke publicly about his illness in an interview with Lincoln Times-News staff writer Sarah Grano, which appeared in Fridayâ€™s edition.
Mental illness is not something affected people like to discuss openly, but it has lost a lot of the stigma once attached to it. Jarrett did not really care to discuss his illness publicly, but he realized that his position as a school board member places him in the public eye. His own bout with depression caught media attention last February when EMS units were called to his home. Because he was at that time chairman of the school board, the media reported how Jarrett was found in a closet and that he had been armed with a gun. He was immediately hospitalized
We heard nothing from Jarrett about the incident as he sought treatment for his depression. During his absence of several weeks, the school board opted to remove him from his leadership position, though he stayed on the board. Board member Jean Dellinger was elected to take the chair position. Earlier this month in another story highlighted regionally in the media, Dellinger was arrested for possession of stolen goods. That story again brought to light how she had assumed the post and rehashed the Jarrett incident.
Jarrett decided it was time to publicly address the issue and assure the community that he has received treatment and has moved on with his life.
â€œIt was like I was in a very dark tunnel with no way to get out, and the tunnel kept getting darker and darker,â€ Jarrett said in an interview.
On the night of Feb. 28, Jarrett became suicidal. Before EMS workers came to his house, his son had to take a gun away from him.
â€œThereâ€™s pain that goes along with depression. A lot of itâ€™s mental and a lot of itâ€™s physical, and I was at a point that I wanted the pain to go away,â€ said Jarrett. â€œIâ€™m so thankful I did not get to that step of committing suicide.â€
Jarrett said that after some difficulty finding the right treatment, he now feels that he has succeeded and is dealing with the problem. He hopes to continue his service on the school board.
We commend Jarrett for making the difficult decision to address his illness publicly. The fact is, many people afflicted by depression do not even admit such problems to themselves.
That sad episode of Feb. 28 wonâ€™t go away from the minds of the public. But Jarrettâ€™s explanation will make it a lot more understandable than it was before. And it should encourage others to face these very difficult problems head-on.