On Depression and Suicide

Trigger Warning - these are tough and personal topics.

I lost my best friend of more than 10 years to suicide two weeks ago. We were also roommates  at the time of his passing. It has been an excruciating time of loss, reflection, questions, sadness, and anger. I’ve reconnected with old friends. I’ve met other people from his past. I’ve had an outpouring of support, love, and stories. Many people have had experiences like this, either themselves or along with those they know. These are subjects not easily brought up, but once experienced or in the moments, many are willing to share. Thank you to all that have been here with me through this journey.

Josh Melick and Travis Pollock standing on CDMX sign in Mexico City
Josh Melick and Travis Pollock in Mexico City (CDMX) 2019

My goal for this post is pretty simple. These topics are real, are broad, and are important. Let’s not get lost in business or technology and forget about our human side. I am not going to try to have an opinion on how or why my friend got where he did, how I got where I am, or how others find themselves in their own situations. I do hope for all, though, that anyone struggling -  and their friends and family - they get the help they need. And my hope is that, as family or friends of those that need help, we do as much as we can to support them. I wish I could have done more. We can all do more. In order to support those that are sick, it’s often the well that need to take a part of the burden. That’s very hard to do. Fraught with complications (or even excuses). Carry on. Keep trying.

I’ve read a number of things over the last few weeks. This was one I found most interesting. https://monteiro.medium.com/we-totally-suck-at-dealing-with-suicide-7d4287cce50c There’s a few things that stood out. The first is just the way we, as society, have traditionally treated mental illness; the shame and stigma we’ve put around it. I have hope because I see some of that changing. I also liked the discussion on how to “write it” or name it. Committed suicide. Killed themself. As I sent many messages over the last couple of weeks, each time I had to write something like that I took pause. I didn’t want to say it. It sounded wrong. It was awkward. Maybe it was just my own emotion around what happened. None of it felt right. I do think the language is wrong and outdated.

It seems to me that as society has gotten more evolved, there have been many great improvements - but also new problems. I am glad we have less wars, less famine, less poverty. But we have new enemies. The need for acceptance. The speed and pressure of careers, social, and media. These problems are perhaps more nuanced. Just a few months ago I had read the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I loved it. It’s a few years old now but certainly worth a read. I cried reading the chapter on shame and the differences about how it presents for men and women. I could see some of my own shame. I thought about my friend then and his very real struggles, not knowing how much worse it would get. Shame goes very deep.

Because of my complex emotions around these topics, I debated not writing at all. But, I know it’s been a hard time for many. We are not alone here. Many are experiencing a mental health crisis along with the pandemic. Scientists are seeing a global surge in depression, and we are experiencing an unfortunate spike in substance abuse, overdose deaths, and, to the point of this post - suicide. In fact, research is showing that instances of depression have tripled during the pandemic. We are seeing some scary trends, and unless we open up a real conversation, we’re helpless to stop what’s coming. And so, I couldn’t be shy about sharing my experiences and my feelings. Hopefully it can help even one person to seek out the support that they need. Or maybe the one person who is close enough to help someone in need. Opening the dialog and removing the barriers is a good place to start. Broadly assault these old ways of thinking. Challenge the fear. Be more open. It’s necessary. Dare greatly. It’s worth it.

Josh Melick and Travis Pollock and a motorcycle on the Mongolia Steppe grasslands
Travis stealing my keys while I'm busy on the Mongolian Steppe

If you'd like to contribute to Travis' memorial fund, which supports many great causes, you can do so through this go fund me. It is here for those interested:


Additionally, if this content resonated with you, please reach out to those you love and make sure they’re ok. If you have concerns about your own mental health, check out this comprehensive database with over 60 resources, or just call this hotline: 800-273-8255.

Josh Melick and friends standing in front of Empire State building
Josh and Travis and friends in NYC

I love you Travis. I will always miss the friendship we had.