For the second week in a row, the weekend brings news about the suicide of a well-known writer. Arguably as startling as the news last week that David Foster Wallace hanged himself at the young age of 46 is the revelation, in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, that Lucy Maud Montgomery, one of Canada’s most beloved authors, also killed herself, with a drug overdose at the age of 67.
The revelation was made in an essay by Montgomery’s granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, who writes that she wants to bring Montgomery’s long battle with depression and its sad conclusion to light in the hopes that it will encourage more people suffering from mental illness to seek help:
I have great admiration for my grandmother, for her contribution to Canadian literature and culture, her strength of character, and the love, pride and sense of responsibility she gave to my family.
I am proud of her courage, given how isolated and lonely she must have felt during certain periods of her life. I wish that her family or community had had some of the tools that are available today. I expect that most families continue to be bewildered about how to help loved ones who suffer from debilitating depression.
I hope that by writing about my grandmother now there might be less secrecy and more awareness that will ease the unnecessary suffering so many people experience as a result of such depressions.
Sadly, Wallace’s recent decision to end his life after a lengthy bout with depression indicates that, while the stigma may be less prevalent in 2008 than during Montgomery’s lifetime, the disease still claims the lives of many people who can see no other way out of their circumstances.
Here’s hoping that next week will provide some literary news that is not suicide-related.