Clarion Call: A Social Media Voice Silenced by the Tragedy of Suicide

September 4, 2011 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (9)


It’s 3:47pm Pacific Time on Sunday, September 4, 2011. Eight hours ago, Trey Pennington sent this Tweet.

Soon after, he committed suicide.

I do not know how. Nor is that really the point. What compelled me to write this is the grim reminder that the disease of depression is a cruel beast. It does not discriminate. It takes no prisoners.

Expressions of grief and shock cascaded across the Internet on blog posts on Twitter or, most hauntingly, on the wall of Trey’s Facebook profile. Many people had no idea that Trey suffered from any sort of mental anguish or perhaps diagnosed condition that would lead to such a tragedy. Sadly that’s how depression works. It is insidious in its approach and vicious in its impact.

Part of the issue I believe is that people toss around the statement that they are “depressed” when what they really mean is that they are temporarily down in the dumps about a situation or experience. This differs greatly from someone who genuinely suffers from the clinically diagnosable condition of depression. Those who do usually are masters of disguise, maintaining a perfect facade to those around them … and sadly a part of the condition is that one feels as though they have no one who cares.

Depression can be detected, diagnosed and, more importantly, it can be treated. There are myriad studies and research groups exploring this disease as well, seeking even more knowledge to expand the options for those who suffer.

If there is one good thing that can come from Trey’s death perhaps it is that someone out there who currently suffers can get help they need. If you have someone in your life who you think may be in trouble, don’t wait until it’s too late.

To those of you who knew Trey, my deepest condolences and prayers that you get through this difficult time.


9 responses to “Clarion Call: A Social Media Voice Silenced by the Tragedy of Suicide”

  1. I posted my own response at … I’ve been down Trey’s road and then some.

  2. Cathy says:

    Thank you for sharing your own thoughts and experience, Steven. I’m glad that you have been able to wrestle the dragon of depression as you have and that you are able to stand strong in knowing that you can reach out for help. There are so many who, in spite of education, resources and all appearances that they have got things handled, just can’t make it down that path.

  3. laura g says:

    My heart goes out to all of Trey’s friends and family.

    I feel the urge to comment that just because depression CAN be treated doesn’t mean that there is a magic pill out there. I have a dear friend who has been struggling for years with depression and she continues to try everything from modifying her diet to exercise to therapy to different pharmaceuticals. Some days, she just wonders what is broken inside her and marvels at people who can “just be happy”. I’m deeply grateful that she continues to search for solutions and I try to be as supportive as I can.

    All this is just to say that, for those who are struggling, it’s OK if you’re not “better” yet. You are not broken. That balanced person is inside of you somewhere.

    Keep passing the open windows.

  4. George says:

    Recently I was diagnosed with depression and right now I am being treated. I am feeling a lot better now. What people don’t get is how powerful it is. Is not like being sad, it is like somehow you are trapped inside you and you don’t know how get out or reach for help. My father died from depression, only he never knew that he had it. Maybe if he had known he would be still with us. The only thing that I can say is that if maybe things are going very bad in your life and you cannot find a way out, it is perhaps that you are sick and you can be helped and saved.

  5. I was diagnosed with clinical depression 13 years ago and have struggled with medication and therapy and trying to find the right balance since. It’s a long road and it’s a tough illness made all the more difficult by people assuming you can “get over it” like a it’s a bad date. My heart goes out to Trey’s loved ones and I hope they can find a way to move forward from this tragedy. I just lost one of my closest friends to suicide due to ongoing clinical depression and it is proof that this disease can be fatal. If you are suffering, please reach out and seek medical and emotional help.

  6. Cathy says:

    Cathy, I applaud your courage in your own struggle and your courage in speaking out that you, too, suffer from this insidious illness. Suffering in silence leads to tragedy. In speaking out you not only help yourself but you serve as a great example to others who may be afraid to do so. May your own journey be a smooth one.

  7. Depression makes people feel like things will never get better. For many, they can and do. I often use an image and metaphor that actually happened to me, to symbolize how things really can turn around. I was in my office (at the time, the 16th floor of the Old Barnett Bank building in Jacksonville.) I was talking to a co-worker, standing in the doorway of her office. I could see out her window, which opened right onto the view of another wall, thanks to the building’s C- shaped construction. As we finished the conversations, I turned 90 degrees to return to my office and looked out the window I was now facing and saw a beautiful Florida day, with sunshine, cumulus clouds and a view of the St. Johns river. Perspective. You can’t force it to change when you are depressed, but sometimes, it just changes- you wake up and you see the sunshine on the river.

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  9. Cathy says:

    Thank you for these thoughts, Laura. You are, indeed, right … sometimes the smallest of moves can change your perspective entirely.