Every now and again, I feel a little bummed or sad in the morning. I get up, look outside and the sun is behind the clouds. Maybe it is raining, maybe it's chilly, maybe I had a bad dream. Whatever the reason, I will roll out of bed and grudgingly trudge to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee. Usually, after my first sip of the dark deliciously bitter brew, I start to feel a little more perky and I may even feel like being an adult. I bounce back pretty quick and by the time I am finished with my first cup (yes, I have more than one cup of coffee in the morning), I feel like I can participate in life and take on the world. I am not a complicated person once I have my coffee.
My mood can set the tone in our house for the day. My husband Chris often says, "If mamma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Though we giggle at this phrase, there are those exceptionally bad days where I have only squeaked in 2 hours of sleep at night and even
after 2 cups of coffee, I just don't want to roll with the punches. Those are very rare, but those are the days I ''fake it." I suppress my inclination to act like Eeyore in order to keep the balance in the household.
Everyone has bad days once-in-awhile. We are humans, our emotions get the best of us, it's natural. However, when one starts to feel sadness, increased anxiety, melancholy, or hopelessness daily, then weekly, then monthly....it is time to consider speaking to someone about possible depression. This is easier said than done.
A majority of people will not discuss their emotions, moods, or state of mind with another person. You see, many who are depressed will not speak out because of the stigma surrounding depression. They do not want to be tagged with a "mental illness" or be seen as "crazy". They feel if they speak out, others will see them as less of a person, which could affect their employment status, school, or other areas of their life. They may not feel as though they need help. And truly, depression can be very complicated. The last thing a person needs to hear is, "Snap out of it." "Get over it."--Harsh words when someone is ready to open up. Those words likely will shut a depressed person down and they will continue to hold back their depression confession.
This is all fine and dandy right? Wrong. When we make others feel they need to suppress their emotions, their concerns with their health and their state of mind, things can go south fast. Without good coping skills and someone to confide in, depression can turn in to despair. Despair can lead to suicide. Suicide is a preventable tragedy. Yes, PREVENTABLE! There is hope. Yet, why is suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States? If it is preventable, then how?
Let's open our eyes and our hearts. Pay attention to signs of depression in our loved ones and be ready gently approach them and listen. Some symptoms of depression are subtle. A person may appear more agitated, anxious, perhaps they drink a little more alcohol than they used to. They may seem more withdrawn, prefer isolation. They speak about how they "used to be more active" but now they just don't "feel like doing anything." Perhaps they have gained some weight or even have lost weight without exercise or dieting. Maybe they even say every so often, "Phew, I feel depressed today" but they play it off as though nothing is wrong. Their overall behavior has changed.
If we notice these changes, whether subtle or drastic, let's encourage them to open up. Let them know we are there for them and really just listen. LISTEN, as long as it takes...LISTEN. Then encourage them to continue to reach out, open up, and discuss how they are feeling.
DON'T make them feel rushed. DO make them feel your compassion. DON'T abandon them after they confide in you. Lovingly encourage them to seek other counseling as well. Remember too, what may work for you to lift your spirits, may not work for them. DON'T offer advice. Just be there, listen, offer support, pray with them if they are willing, pray for them. Stay connected with them. And ask them how else you can help them.
It is important to pay attention to their words, listening for signs of suicidal thoughts, ideas, feelings. Do they discuss death? Are they feeling worthless or hopeless? Do they talk about saying goodbye to friends and family? Are they "tempting fate" with reckless behavior? Have they attempted suicide in the past? Again, somethings may be very subtle. That is why it is very important for us to be active listeners and really pay attention to our loved ones.
We can do this! I really hope suicide will eventually be a thing of the past.....hefty hope, but it takes all of us to prevent suicide. It takes all of us to open our eyes and hearts enough that those who feel depressed can speak to us. Let's not make depression their stumbling block. Let's not allow suicide to be their end result.
September 10th is suicide prevention day. I encourage everyone to look at the available
sources in the provided links to help educate ourselves on depression and suicide prevention.
1-800-273-8255 is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.