I really like seeing all of the positive affirmations like this that have shown up over the last few days in response to some very public suicides. There is some proof that when someone rich and famous like Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain commits suicide, often a rise in the number of suicides follows. It has nothing to do with a personal connection to these people but with the ultimate feeling of worthlessness. “If someone that _______ (fill in the blank – rich, successful, famous, talented …) can’t find a reason to live, what hope do I have?” So the instinct to let people know that others are out there who care and who hate to see this happen is a good one. Sharing the number for the suicide hotline is also a good thing. If these gestures help even one person, then they were worth it.
However, please know that when someone is in the throes of depression, reading a post on Facebook won’t make a lot of difference. The care and concern needs to come directly from someone – preferably spoken so they hear your heart, but a message addressed specifically to the one hurting is okay too. I know that, when I’m at rock-bottom, I would read this and tell myself, “that’s nice and it’s true… for someone else but not for me.”
Depression is an illness. It is a relentless pit. It is difficult for the people who suffer directly and also for those around them. There are some people who need major intervention or who may never heal. However, for many people, you can help by being there and letting sufferers know that they matter to you. Start with some of these suggestions and go from there:
- Reach out with an invitation to have coffee, a personal note that you are thinking of them, or a quick phone call just to chat. The fact that you were thinking of them counters some of the thoughts in their minds.
- Invite them to get out of the house and do something with you. See a movie, take a walk, go to a museum, take a quick run to Target. It doesn’t have to be something big and planned out. It just needs to get them involved and let them know you value their company.
- Encourage them to seek help beyond what you alone can do, but let them know that you will still be there to listen and to care. Starting with the general physician is often the first and maybe easiest step. That doctor can certainly start some medication and will be able to offer counselors also. Offer to go along if the act of seeking help seems too daunting.
- If you have suffered and had treatment, seen a counselor, or are on medication, share your experiences. Knowing that you recognize what they are going through and that it isn’t something that they can just “make the decision to be happy and snap out of” allows that person to breathe and talk. It also helps to take away the stigma some feel with sharing this problem. It lets them know that you truly understand and that they aren’t alone.
Small, continuous actions that let someone know that you care can save a life. Knowing that you are thought of and cared for is extremely important for all of us, but for those suffering with depression, it can be a lifeline.
For information on seeking help through suicide prevention hotlines in a variety of countries across the globe, please go to https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/suicide-prevention-resources_us_5abcf712e4b04a59a3154cbd.