When you type “melancholy” into Wikipedia, it redirects you to “depression”, but for me, these two states have always been clearly distinct.
Melancholy has an element of beauty to it. It is like autumn or how one might feel in autumn when observing the decay and dying of another summer. It is the emotion a person might feel when pondering their old dreams and realising none of them came true. But it is not an emotion that paralyses and sends you into apathy and despair. Melancholy is about acceptance of your circumstances, of knowing that indeed, none of your dreams came true, but at least you dreamt. And life is beautiful, even with its sorrows and losses. This is how I feel melancholy. Melancholy is like a poem to me.
Depression, on the other hand, I see as an enemy. I cannot accept it or what it can do to a human being. It is no longer about a half-pleasant wallowing in sadness akin to a Romantic poet, it is an unwelcome problem. It can be debilitating, it is about despair and sorrow combined. It is about feeling trapped and “knowing” life will never work out. Or that you haven’t the strength to make it work out. To use the example of dreams that never came true: a melancholic accepts it and writes a sad poem about it, a depressive no longer considers life worth living, withdraws from trying and in very severe circumstances may attempt suicide. Because, if none of your dreams came true, and your depression makes you feel that they never will either, what’s the point of living? For other people?
I for one, will never see suicide as weak or foolish. It’s a cliché to claim that there are solutions to all problems. There are not.