This post is part of a community initiative in honor of a friend who recently lost his son. You can read his story here. We are seeking to educate and open the dialogue so that people who suffer from mental illness, depression, may have access to the help they need. So that families have more resources to help. So that youth have access to the resources they need to get help. I also find it is an important campaign for surviving victims of suicide – so they may also have resources and support.
The collection of articles as part of this campaign may be found via the hashtag #notalone. I invite you to share your story under the same hashtag, and share our posts so that we may raise awareness. Together we can change things.
What is this word “Depression”
One of the outstanding issues in understanding depression and its impact is predominantly in how society uses the term. Depression holds a stigma and a false binary: the term can be used lightly to describe one’s feelings about a situation or to classify as a mental illness. With this dichotomy in the term’s usage, people take the word lightly and moreover exclude the harsh realities of what depression entails. “What’s wrong?” “I’m depressed”
Depression may stem from several factors. It can can be:
- induced by the use of substances (prescribed, un-prescribed or illegal);
- based on a chemical imbalance in the brain;
- some forms of depression have even been found to be hereditary- in those cases there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it – you can only figure out ways to live around it.
Don’t Assume You Understand – there is nothing more alienating than hearing someone say they understand, when they don’t. The person themselves hardly understands – it’s just a frustrating and horrible place to be. Most individuals are not equipped to assess these situations, much less resolve the problem for someone who feels this.
You have to get to the root of the problem.
Because we do not know the root of the depression, we can not expect to be able to “fix it” – some depression is “fixable” and some is not…
Depression is unpredictable and complex. In some cases people encounter extreme lows and highs (due to mental health issues such as personality disorders, or hormonal imbalances or possibly other medical conditions), in other cases the depression is so deep that the highs don’t come, and the person may simply feel a constant state of despair or listlessness. Every single case is different, and if I can accomplish nothing else with this post, what I would like to do is convince you that you are not alone, that there are many, many people who either suffer from some form of depression due to any of the above reasons, or deal with it in their lives and that it is only through reaching out and working to identify the issues that friends and family members can understand, make a difference and come to peace with parts of it.
Consider also the stigma surrounding depression and mental illness. Often people hide these things from the people who care about them, they are afraid to be judged. As people in society we don’t walk around telling people everything that is wrong in our families or with ourselves, yet sadly when terrible things happen, we realize how many people really cared. Maybe this is what has to change. The stigma around depression has to stop – because it is wrong, because it in itself hurts us as a society. The only way to accomplish anything is to get support and start talking. How will we do this? I think the first step is to realize no two cases are alike.
When depression wins : Suicide.
Just as people do with depression, people lump suicide into one big category. “They killed themselves” – However it is important to realize that suicides happen in many different ways.
Can you prevent suicide?
In order to know the answer to that, you would first have to understand what led to the suicide. Depression is not a sufficient answer. Suicides happen in many different ways; Sometimes they happen as the result of a long drawn out depression – a simple exhaustion from living. They may happen as a result of drastic and impulsive actions – very unpredictable, and perhaps in itself unstoppable – unless you would have identified the medical issues before hand or the predisposition to the drastic and erratic behaviors… Sometimes they are calls for help – and I think this is the one most people hang onto…the one that leads most left behind by suicide to think: ” I should have been there…I should have known…I should have listened…how could I let this happen?” What I find tragic is that often people hear about a case like this and think, why didn’t they do something… I think we need to understand the different reasons suicides happen, and realize it take larger awareness and access to proper care – the individuals in a person’s life cannot always be responsible. They need help too. Sometimes the work that would be needed once someone has reached this point is not just people saying they care, the issues are much greater.
Not every suicide is proceeded by the call for help.
The only way to prevent suicide is getting help, and hoping that the case can turn around. Some people have one attempt – some people have several – some people – perhaps try for an “attempt” and without even realizing it, end up succeeding in ending their life – when they may have only intended to get help. We may never know or understand. I am not depressive, for years I heard about suicides and couldn’t understand how these things could happen. Then, in the past several years I have experienced several very different cases, and this is what really made me realize, sometimes there is nothing that could have been done. Sometimes the situation progressed so far, it was too late. Sometimes, no one even knew…things just end up where they were. All we can do is try and move forward and make sense of it and try to open the dialogue to help others who may be heading down the same path – never give up.
We need to change something. Why do people only care when they lose someone to suicide? – words from the person who lost their uncle in the story below.
What should we do as a community, and in our lives?
What can you do?
- Make it okay for people to talk about these struggles.
- Do not be judgmental
- Do not expect that you can save the day and suddenly solve everyone’s problems.
- Make this a community issue, not an individual issue.
- Help the person find help – sometimes this might mean actually lobbying in your community to get funding for help and non-profits who will be there.
What can you do if you’re feeling down, disconnected or just having a hard time?
Speak to a professional. Reach out to a community group where you may even meet others who are facing similar circumstances. If you can, ask a friend to help. This professional can be a social worker, a help line, a college counselor, a community organization. If you don’t know what organizations are available try and contact United Way, and ask them if they have any organizations in your area to help. They have an extensive directory of services they support that are local. Family doctors are trained to listen and provide resources, they may be able to help you find help as well. You are not alone. By going to a professional, they will point you in the right direction. I am not a doctor, I am not a psychologist, I am human just like you. Whether it is you who feels this way, or whether it is someone you love, the number one thing to do seek help to try and find out what is wrong. Depression can be a symptom of other things. Tell them how you feel or what you are going through, and if you don’t like what they tell you, or you don’t agree with them, see another doctor. Get a second opinion. They will help you get the help you need either for yourself or the person you are concerned about. You have rights and options just like anyone else. Raise awareness by supporting organizations that do grassroots work in your community to help people when they are in need. In honor of Lucas Fiorella, we are supporting Kids Help Phone, if you’d like to get involved OR make a donation, you can do so here.
Suicide as a result of violence, bullying and other situations facing our youth.
I would also like to draw attention to a wonderful organization called Leave Out The Violence. (LOVE) They provide support and programs in Canada and the US. Check out their work and support them, you have no idea how they touch our world in helping so many people who are victims of violence and preventing the cycle from continuing. Scroll through this Storify to see some of the other posts in this series, some of them beautifully written first hand accounts, and help us start the change.