Depression and other mental health disorders affect millions and millions of people around the world, yet sadly and unfathomably it still remains a shameful illness that most people feel the need to hide. There are individuals out there that understand depression and other related disorders that don’t have this view of shame and we crave, encourage and implore others to reach out and look for that helping hand. The days may be dark and it may seem like there is no way out of the tunnel, but there is. Does it take a lot of hard work? It sure does, but anything good is never easy. Sadly the rates of suicide are very high and is often felt as the only cure for unrelenting depression.
Suicide is not a cure….it is a tragic end to a life that seemed out of options. A life without any fight left. A life that may not have been able to be touched. Individuals suffering feel burdened by the illness and feel a burden to those around them and that is why suicide becomes an option.
Let’s look for a moment how the journey of depression exists. Sadness, overwhelming fears, feeling inadequate, anxiety and an overall lackluster for most things are just some of the symptoms associated with depression. People with depression are not lazy or just feeling blue and they cannot just snap out of it or take a vacation to feel better. Clinical depression involves brain chemistry and while an individual wishes they could snap out of it or have more motivation they just can’t. This is what makes intervention so crucial. A team approach with a multi-disciplinary approach to the treatment makes for better outcomes. This is also where things become tricky as the person suffering hides the severity and may often refuse to get help for fear of shame and embarrassment. The out of options thinking may begin to occur and thoughts such as ‘if I kill myself, I just won’t have to deal with this anymore.’ Or; ‘if I kill myself then I won’t be a burden to anyone anymore.’ Suicide also becomes an option when the person has a treatment resistant depression. This can occur when medications simply are not effective and therapy alone is not enough to lift the depression. This is an especially difficult situation for family, friends and loved ones to deal with. How do we as professionals or loved ones urge one to continue to fight when things feel bleaker because they are not responding well to medication and other therapies? Support is crucial in these situations and can be the difference for someone contemplating suicide. New medication protocols can be tried and additional support added.
In the tragic event that a loved one does commit suicide the myriad of feelings that the surviving people are left with can be overwhelming. The most common is guilt and feeling that more could have been done or warning signs were missed. These feelings are common and very hard to work through. Suicide has been called a selfish death because while the individual suffering from depression or another mental health illness is out of pain, the people left behind are forced to live with it for the rest of their lives. In these moments it is crucial to remember that in dark depression or the like, that the person cannot see this, they can only feel their pain and see no other options.
In the tragic event that a loved one has committed suicide, it is imperative that professional support is sought for the survivors. The stages of grief as defined by Kubler-Ross are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Each stage can last for long periods of time and proper support to work through each stage is necessary to come to terms with the suicide of a loved on.
For those that are suffering, you are urged to reach out and continue to do so until the right support and treatment is found. Depression can get better and suicide is not the cure. For those that suspect that a friend or loved one is suffering, reach out to them and offer your support no matter what it takes.
It is important to know that some of the warning signs of an impending suicide may be surprising. Happiness is one of them. And it confuses everyone around the person. A person suffering from a refractive depression whom all of a sudden seems happier than usual may have made the decision to commit suicide and the happiness comes from a sense of relief over having made the decision. This is very confusing for those around this person and they believe that the depression is lifting. Individuals that have made the decision to end their life may also begin to give things away in the way of gifts. Checking in with a loved one and asking them could mean the difference. This is not the time to feel shy. Ask the person directly if they are feeling like they want to harm or kill themselves and if they say yes then ask them if they have a plan. The more specific the plan, the more likely they are seriously contemplating it. It is not up to a loved one to assess the actual risk, but if there is concern then urge treatment and emergent care so that proper care can be given.
Depression and other mental illness can be treated and healing can occur where one can lead a productive and fulfilling life. Ask for help if you are suffering and offer help if you know of someone who is.
Jennifer Kelman is a social worker, entrepreneur, author, certified professional coach and parenting expert on Justanswer.com. Chat with her now >