How do you know when it’s dark?

This is Suicide Prevention Month. We have to have a whole month dedicated to keeping people from killing themselves.

If you see someone that’s down, offer them a hug. Ask them how they’re feeling. Offer to help.

Killing yourself is selfish. You hurt the people around you.

Count your blessings! Look at all you have to live for!

This is BS.

Normal people will look depressed and it’s temporary. It’s an easy fix. Depressed people have been depressed for a while and suppressed that look. Who would have known that Robin Williams was depressed? Increased alcohol and drug use? Addicts are really good at hiding those things. So if you see someone that’s normal and happy, there’s a good chance they’re not. They’re good at acting normal because they don’t want to be a burden to anyone. Oh. Well, that complicates matters.

When you’re depressed, you think you’re already hurting the people around you. You want to stop failing those that depend on you. You want to stop causing them pain. You want to remove your foul influence on your family and those folks unfortunate enough to hang around you. The most unselfish thing you could do is take yourself out of the picture. Yes, they’d be sad for a bit, but ultimately, they’d feel relieved, wouldn’t they?

Count your blessings? Are you kidding me? When you’re suicidal, you believe that all the good things that come your way are undeserved. You have received things you didn’t earn. You feel guilty for anything good in your life. You didn’t do anything to deserve that spouse, that friend, that child, that job. You can’t possibly live up to their expectations. What do you have to live for? Constantly falling short? Disappointing everyone you know. Disappointing everyone you don’t know! Trapped in a situation you hate and have no control over…bad job or health situation or bad relationship with relatives or family members. This list can be as long as your arm. The future looks hopeless.

The first thing a depressed person might do is isolate himself so he doesn’t ruin someone else’s day/week/life. It brings his little world more under his control. People make the decision to end their lives with a feeling of hopelessness, an emotion they do not think they can control. They defend this decision logically. So even if the logic makes no sense to someone who isn’t depressed, it makes sense to the person. They have their arguments all lined up and prioritized. So they self-isolate and close off connections to “stop the bleeding” and protect those people around them. They do not realize the consequences of this type of thinking. They just make their world small enough to accommodate their worldview.

What if you’re forced into isolation? You don’t have that social network to keep your spirits up and keep you connected to people who care about you. Then you notice that people you thought were close do not extend their connection to you. People you thought were friends do not text or call or Facebook with you. You begin to wonder how much they really cared. You may not even consider reaching out to them because you think that it is something they should initiate. Your world gets smaller.

The product of isolation, especially now that we have internet and instant communications is that we no longer have to see facial reactions and body language. You don’t need that filter between your head and your mouth. Things you NEVER would have even brought up in polite conversation are spewed all over your profile. When people you thought were friends suddenly block you, you may think that it’s their fault. Not yours. You know it’s a two-way street, so you also know you share the blame. Your world, again, grows smaller.

You begin to think about the extreme behavior you now see in the news, the vitriol spread through the media, the rampant paranoia, and the injustice, and gradually, the conspiracy theories become more palpable. You begin to abandon those social niceties you had to adopt when in public. Pants become optional. (This is a metaphor… Things you would have kept private and to yourself are now on display to anyone with whom you make contact.) You can see how this isolation has affected normal people. Now imagine if it was self-imposed.

What steps can we take to consciously reduce that feeling of hopelessness?

  1. Be kind to each other. I know this sounds like a poster, but it’s such a simple step. I don’t mean to belabor this point, but being kind goes deeper than patting someone on the head saying, “It will be all right.” Go out of your way to make the people around you feel good about themselves. Show appreciation genuinely. Praise in public and critique in private. Never call names! Never Bully someone! It is the cruellest thing you can do to a person.
  2. Be grateful for everyone and everything in your life. Even if it isn’t ideal. This change in perspective is also simple, but not easy. Gratitude has to be practiced. But how does your gratitude help someone who’s depressed? You are modeling a behavior that shows a different perspective. You may express gratitude to a person that doesn’t feel noticed, whose work gets no appreciation, whose circumstances seem hopeless. You might be a source of hope and help to someone you may not suspect needs it.
  3. Take the time to connect with those around you who may feel more and more isolated. A postit note with a cheery message or a thank you note can brighten someone’s day. A text that says “I thought of you and wanted you to know how much I value your… (fill in the blank.)” A hand-written thank you note is unexpected and always appreciated.

It sounds like so little, but it also sounds like it would take much time for unnoticed results. What’s weird is that when you do any of these things, they also bring up your mood as well.

The fact is you cannot tell when someone is experiencing that darkness. In fact, if you are on that slippery slope to the darkness, you may not even know it until you’ve slid in a distance!

If someone confides in you about their feelings of suicide, do not argue with them! It makes them feel more guilty and more likely to defend their actions.

You find someone in the bathroom sobbing… “What’s wrong?”

“My girlfriend just left me! I can’t go on without her! I’d rather just die.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. But there are lots of fish in the sea. She didn’t deserve you. Just get back on the horse. You’ll be fine. Well, Nice talk.”

Um…That would be disastrous.

If, instead, you replied, “I’m sorry to hear that! How long were you together?
“What did you like about her?”
“Where did you meet?”
“How did she make you feel?”
“Was this a surprise?”
“What did she say?”

You see? You are encouraging this person to talk, not listen. At this point, you can direct them to a counselor or a pastor who can help them recover. You are not making judgments on their choices. You are not trivializing their problems. You are not prescribing behavior that they know they cannot incorporate.

In these times of trouble, when threats to our security, our health, and our freedoms seem overwhelming, if you treat everyone (including yourself) with the utmost care, you can alleviate some causes of depression in not only yourself but those around you. Let’s work to reduce these suicides.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.