On Feb. 27, 2013, my life changed forever. My hero, my rock, and my idol — my father — did the unimaginable and took his own life. My father was suffering from one of his many depressions, but I never expected this. My whole world collapsed, and this devastated our whole family and all who knew him. History had repeated itself.
Who was Juan Marcial Clark? My father was an amazing, kind, and loving man who loved his family very much. He was a great father, husband, son, and brother. My father was a man of extreme faith and had a heart of gold. He was always trying to help others and had a very hard time saying “no” to people. He was a very humble and respectful person. He was a man of honor, integrity, and compassion. He was a patriot and a scholar who was willing to give his life for his beloved Cuba. He dedicated his life to his family and the Cuban cause.
My father suffered from depression for many years. He had one of his first episodes when he was in the Jesuit Seminary in Cuba in the mid 1950s, which led him to leave the seminary. All of my father’s family from his mother’s side suffered from depression after a terrible tragedy occurred.
My father’s grandfather suffered the tragic loss of his wife, two children, his job, and his money. He saw no way out and took his own life. His remaining children found him and were traumatized. They all suffered from depression for the rest of their lives. You could never talk about this tragedy in our family.
I knew my father was depressed but I thought that he would eventually get over it, like he had done in the past. My father had suffered from depression before and was even hospitalized. I never imagined that he would take his own life. I thought that because of my father’s Catholic faith, he would never contemplate suicide. I know that my father was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted, and he just couldn’t take it anymore.
In a letter, he blamed his deteriorating health and recurrences of his depression, among other things. What my father and many people who commit suicide do not realize is the amount of destruction and devastation they leave behind. It is like a war zone after an atomic bomb has been dropped where the destruction and shock waves are felt for many miles and its victims take a long time to heal.
Every 13.7 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide. Nearly one million people make a suicide attempt every year. Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death. Men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, but women attempt suicide three times more than men. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons ages 15-24, second among people age 25-30, fourth among 35- to 54-year-olds and eighth among people 55-64 years of age.
The rate of suicide has been increasing since 2000 and is at its highest rate in 15 years. In 2011, the United States was ranked 34th in the world for suicide rates.
I have suffered from depression and it is the worst feeling in the world. You lose all of your drive and motivation, and you don’t want to do anything but lay in bed all day. You feel like a coward and are terrified to ask for help because you think it is a sign of weakness. Like my wife told me, “Depression is not a sign of weakness; it is just that you have been strong for so long that you eventually break because the mind cannot take anymore.” Depression is the toughest thing that I have ever experienced in life — even tougher than my experiences in the military.
If you are one of the millions of people suffering from depression, please swallow your pride and speak to someone who can help. Do not be afraid to seek professional help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
Mental illness, depression and suicide are grave problems. Depression does not discriminate. It is a disease just as deadly as cancer.
Jose Clark, with an assist from his daughter Jacqueline, wrote this column for The Miami Herald.