We had a Fellowship seminar recently on depression. Seminars are off the record, but I think no one will care if I pass along the evolving medical thinking on the big D: This is a brain disorder, a physical illness. It runs in families. There are risk factors. And it can be — it is — devastating.
Now that Spalding Gray’s body has been found, confirming what everybody pretty much knew about his disappearance some weeks ago, maybe we can talk a little more about depression. I think suicide is never the correct answer to that particular problem; I don’t think it’s a justifiable act in almost all cases where it’s attempted. (I make exceptions for the terminally ill on a case-by-case basis, but you know? Life is a terminal disease.) When a person has, as Gray did, young children (sons, 11 and 6, and a stepdaughter with his wife), it becomes something far worse. Although Gray styled himself as a typical NYC neurotic and treated the people around him accordingly, at least he was honest about it, and he gains whatever redemption honesty offers.
A New York magazine cover story shed a little more light on his particulars: The guy was in no small physical pain following a car accident a few years ago, and seemed to be the victim of some bad, or misguided, medical care. No justification, but it makes it a little more understandable.
Gray’s mother was a suicide. Gray’s children are now at risk. And the grim drumroll goes on. Depressingly.