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End of life and depression

What does end of life even mean for people with depression and their loved ones?

Photo of Jes Simson
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It’s been a little under 2 years since my Aunt passed away.  Officially, she died from secondary tumours from breast cancer.  Unofficially, she took her own life.  For three long, excruciating weeks, she defiantly refused food, water or medication.  She had been suffering from severe depression for over 40 years.  

No one can say whether she would have survived her battle with cancer.  It wasn’t terminal, but it was still cancer.  However, her depression definitely expedited death. It was depression that robbed her of the will to see a doctor about the growing lump in her breast, and later, the dizziness and blackouts that were becoming more and more frequent.  Her depression made it difficult to get out of bed, to take her medication, to go to the hospital for treatment, to bathe, to stay hydrated, to eat.  Her depression had made her an outcast, leaving little space for the friends or social networks who might rally around her to help her get better.  Ultimately, it was her depression which robbed her of a desire to fight (yet gave her the inordinate strength to refuse food, water, or pain reliving medication in those final, agonising weeks).

In the months since her death, my family and I have been to too many funerals for friends who have lost their battles with depression. Friends gone way before their time.  Suddenly.  Inexplicably.  Leaving gaping holes in lives and in hearts. Suicide is now the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.   I have never faced the daemons that these friends have.  I can’t even fathom to understand the pain, the sadness, the loneliness, the isolation, the anguish, or the desperation that led them to their final acts.  These are terrible deaths.  And for various reasons, we can’t easily talk about them.  We certainly don’t want to set anyone off down that path.   Then there are the cultural and spiritual taboos that attach to it.  There's also guilt, and lots of anger.  

So I guess my question is … what does a conversation around the end of life even look like for those with depression and their loved ones?  Are there ways to acknowledge the presence of death, while steering loved one's away from it's immediate appeal?  


What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

What does a conversation around the end of life even look like for those with depression and their loved ones? Are there ways to acknowledge the presence of death, while steering loved one's away from it's immediate appeal?

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Wow Jess. Thank you for sharing this important post.  I am sorry to hear of your loss.  
 This topic did not occur to me for this challenge. I agree a conversation on this topic belongs here. In some ways peoples reactions to those that are depressed are similar to those that are seriously ill and dying from other diseases. They might be unsure of what to say and do, maybe fearful of the situation. I think that depressed patients sometimes become more isolated as their support systems may wane over time. As you mention the extent of the disease might not be known, especially if the person is very isolated.
Might a conversation within greater society which highlights this issue as a part of "end of life" be a place to start? Maybe this particular issue should be pushed to the forefront of the conversation with a goal to create awareness?  Did you see this post?  "Death Over Dinner" - @https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/research/death-over-dinner 
 Maybe a version that highlights mental health as a topic for exploration might be useful?  The author mentions that they want to expand their work and are creating specific editions for the Jewish community and for health professionals.  (I am curious as to how they decided on this and how these editions will be different)

Also what about this app posted in the challenge?  It is template used to build support and care networks for elderly that live at home, within communities.  Can something like this be extended to patients with depression who are debilitated, providing a support network that can assist and advocate for them? 
@https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/research/vinclesbcn-app-winner-of-the-bloomberg-philanthropies-mayors-challenge-2014 . http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/oct/28/could-new-technology-help-older-people-in-barcelona-create-stronger-networks 

Always great to read your posts!
Bettina

Photo of Jes Simson

It's always a pleasure to see you here Bettina, I hope that you are well.  This topic seems like a bit of an elephant in the room on this challenge.  Thank you so much for sharing those inspirations, they're so on point (as usual!)  The app is wonderful, and I definitely think that there are lots of parallels for this challenge.  I'm looking forward to watching the TED talk when I get home from work :)