In reading Dan Rodricks' article, "Shadows of doubt — the life and death of Mike Flanagan" (Aug. 18), I was deeply touched not only by Mr. Rodricks' sensitivity and understanding of major depression but also of his love and caring for Mike Flanagan. I certainly was a fan of Mike Flanagan when he pitched at Memorial Stadium during the long hot summers in Baltimore and entertained his fans with his athleticism, ball control and professionalism. I later enjoyed his television baseball broadcasting. Like others, I did not know that he suffered from bouts of depression and "shadows," as he evidently masked this very well from others. I felt shocked and saddened when I heard of his suicide, as this was a major loss for baseball, Baltimore, and of course, for his wife, family and friends.

It is difficult to comprehend that major depression as a medical and psychiatric disorder can become so painful and unbearable that an individual's only solution is to attempt or commit suicide. Depression can cause an individual to suffer from self loathing, self defeating and irrational thinking, hopelessness and feelings of darkness. Depression, which is often accompanied by anxiety and mood agitation, can become debilitating and create severe impairment and loss of functioning. Suicidal thoughts and intent are symptoms of a severe and extreme depression which can be triggered by a sense of loss and failure and mounting and overwhelming stress in life. It is important and crucial that when an individual exhibits symptoms such as sadness, depressed mood, loss of energy and interest, irritability, anger, sleep and appetite impairment, and difficulties with thinking and concentration, lasting more than two weeks, that psychiatric and psychological treatment be quickly acquired. Depression in children and adolescents is manifested through defiant and rebellious behavior, poor school grades, irritability, and substance abuse. For individuals who express suicidal intent, immediate emergency room treatment is required. Psychiatric and psychological studies show that the most successful treatment for major depression is the combination of psychiatric and psychological treatment, e.g. medication and psychotherapy, which can lead to healing and positive mental health for the individual.

With respect to Alex Flanagan, she is absolutely right when she states, "It's OK to ask for help." I admire her work in promoting education and suicide prevention programs and assistance. Major and clinical depression can be medically treated when a person asks for help, directly or indirectly, and can learn to verbalize painful and tormenting thoughts and feelings in a supportive and therapeutic environment.

Lucille Romeo

The writer is a licensed psychologist.