Our emotions are raw after the area was rocked by a high profile suicide last week.

The act was very public and dramatic. It generated questions and confusion.

Sometimes suicide takes that form. Regardless of circumstances, it shocks our senses.

Many of us recall when embattled state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer shot himself on live television on Jan. 22, 1987.

Sometimes suicide is like that, but other times it's private and quiet. It can come without warning.

All suicides call for compassion and understanding. We should never pass judgment. We can never truly put ourselves in another person's shoes.

We can never truly understand another's feelings, or their sense of hurt and despair.

Suicide can become reality for any of us. Yes, an officer of the law can commit suicide. Depression doesn't discriminate.

And it's important to know that depression can be more than simple "moodiness." It can be a chemical imbalance.

Many factors trigger it - death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, a bad relationship, or an inability to deal with a difficult issue. It can lead to "situational suicide."

Medical professionals believe a family link is present in cases of chemical depression. In other words, genetics might make a person predisposed to the condition.

In fact, depression is so prevalent that it's sometimes called the common cold of mental illness.

I lost a lifelong friend to suicide this year during the Fourth of July holiday. He apparently was troubled and depression got the best of him.

Richard was a fun, spirited individual with a brilliant mind. He was successful in all areas of his life and had everything to live for. I'll never understand why he did it.

But I won't pass judgment, except to say he was a wonderful human being who deserved better from the Grand Creator, if one exists.

Understand that depression puts ideas in your head that defy logic.

My worst depression resulted from the death of family members. I still cope with it, even daily.

When those wounds were fresh, I felt my life no longer had meaning. Happiness had vanished. Living alone, I didn't seem to care about anything anymore. Everything had changed and the world had gone dark.

I went for medical help. I did it right away because I feared what could happen next. I know about it firsthand.

Seventeen years ago, I lost my kid brother to suicide.

Through that tragedy, I came to understand that suicide doesn't bring answers. It creates questions. Even worse, it cuts a deep wound for those left behind, and it's a wound that never heals.

What we need to understand is that depression can affect any of us. The important thing is to get help right away.

If you feel distraught, if you can't stop crying, if the future appears bleak, please get help and don't feel embarrassed. There's no shame in feeling depressed. It's not your fault.

Try to be open about how you feel, your worries and your fears. Talk about it. Don't hold it inside and don't try to deal with it yourself.

Tell others, and ask someone to take you to a doctor. Today's medications and even counseling, if needed, can do wonders. Please take that first step. If nothing else, do that one important thing.

There are many people who want to help. And they know how to do it.

Get yourself to the doctor.

You'll start to feel much better.