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Saturday, March 23 , 2019, 2:04 pm | Mostly Cloudy 61º


Jonathan Lukas: A Letter to Courthouse Suicide Victim

Depression and hopelessness can be overwhelming, but help is out there

[Noozhawk’s note: Jonathan Lukas wrote this column after reading Noozhawk’s report on Tuesday that 44-year-old Santa Barbara resident Danny Lee McLaughlin had died after jumping from the Clock Tower of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Click here for the full report.]

Dear Danny,

I heard the news yesterday and immediately wanted to know who you were. What were you feeling? What had brought you to this point in your short life? The depression and pure hopelessness must have been overwhelming you until it felt like there were no more options left on the table for you.

I wonder how you had finally come to the conclusion that the pain was so great and all consuming that you could take no more. I heard that you were struggling, and I can only imagine how lonely you felt. I wish I would have known you.

I would have wanted you to know that you were not alone, even though it felt that way at that moment. You must have been in pain for a long time. The kind of pain that leaves you feeling totally empty and physically exhausted. You were depressed beyond anyone’s understanding, and I wish I would have known you.

I would have told you that your life was so much more valuable than what it felt like at that moment. I would have reminded you that we all lose hope sometimes. In times like these, most of us feel uncertainty, doubt and even a little hopeless. Sometimes some of us fall through the cracks and even try to remain invisible. But you were not invisible, Danny.

I feel sadness for you and especially for your family. How does a family recover from the loss of a child? At 44, you were probably still someone’s child and maybe someone’s brother. Even though I never knew you, I know you will be missed immensely.

Depression is an illness that slowly and relentlessly breaks you down until darkness is all you can see. It hurts both emotionally and physically. When I think of Danny, I imagine a young man who experienced a severe depression that was just too heavy to carry any longer.

I would have reminded you that there is a way out of this. It would not have happened today, but it would have happened if you had just hung on. If you could have let someone know, they could have and would have helped you. With depression, though, there often comes impulsivity and a need to make the pain go away as quickly as possible. I just wish you knew there were other options for you that we could have discovered together. 

You will be missed.

Jonathan Lukas MFT is a psychotherapist specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy. He is in private practice and runs The OCD Treatment Center of Santa Barbara, working with adolescents and adults with anxiety disorders. Click here for more information or call 805.453.2347.

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