In 2003, actress Michelle Ray Smith's father took his own life after suffering from depression for many years. In coping with her loss, Michelle says she's embarked on a mission to redefine how we understand suicide and to encourage people to get the help they need. Dr. Robin talks with Michelle, who plays Ava Peralta on the soap opera Guiding Light, about her efforts to spread the word on the true causes of suicide.
Michelle says it's important to realize that depression is a mental illness that can lead to suicide. She says people do not "commit" suicide—which implies they committed a criminal act—but rather that they "die by suicide." "Depression is a disease and so death is the worst-case scenario of this disease—and that is suicide," Michelle says.
Since her father's death, Michelle says she's made important changes in how she lives her own life, and that she carries his spirit in her heart every day. Most of all, she says her father's death has given her an opportunity to speak out about depression and encourage people to get the treatment they need. "I can make a difference with people and I'm thankful that I have something to share, as crazy as that might sound," she says.
If you are depressed and/or having thoughts of suicide, please call one of the nationally publicized hotlines, such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Helpline at 800-273-TALK or your local social services or authorities.