It seems as if it was just a couple of months ago that I wrote an article about this; it’s been a year. It made me think about how much has changed over the past year…and how much hasn’t. In fact, I woke up early this morning and, for some reason, started thinking about a loss that I experienced several years ago now. I don’t know why; it wasn’t an anniversary or birthday or any of the normal things that would bring this up. Of course it made me sad thinking about it but, as I was thinking about everything, I also realized that it did more than that. It changed me. It changed who I was when it happened. I’m no longer the person that I used to be prior to my loss. I experienced such strong emotions and feelings that it really threw me for a long time. I honestly think it changed me as a person. I’m a bit more heavy-hearted than I used to be. I am a bit more hesitant in allowing my heart and emotions to be dealt another blow. At the time it happened, I thought about it, agonized over it, cried about it, got angry about it. I did all the things that grieving people should do, but it certainly didn’t feel normal to me and I didn’t go back to the person that I used to be. And that’s the point.
Each one of us is unique and we each have our own minds and emotions. No two are alike so we really cannot understand what someone else is going through. We also change, so we need to adapt. Sometimes life is just too hard to manage on our own. Sometimes we need help. This is absolutely no different than needing help getting around when you have a broken leg. We have a problem and we need help. It’s really as simple as that.
All of us experience highs and lows. All of us have good things happen and bad things happen to us. It’s life and we have to deal with it. We need to each deal with it the right way FOR US. That’s the thing; there is no right and no wrong in treating illness. Everybody has to learn what works best for them in order to live their best life. It’s not fair for any one of us to judge anybody else by what they do to survive. We are not in their shoes; we do not know what’s going on in their life. What we can do, however, is encourage each other to be the best person that they are capable of being and to support each other in that goal.
This isn’t a technical article with statistics and facts and figures. There are (thankfully) plenty of sites to find that information and I will provide a few of them below. Suffice it to say there are a LOT of us that suffer from some type of mental health issue. It can be an independent diagnosis, it can be due to another illness, it can be temporary or long-term, and it can be mild, severe or anywhere in-between! Like any other illness, there are treatments designed to fit your specific circumstances.
Things can become overwhelming. Sometimes we need help to get us through. The most important things that we can do for each other are to learn about it, talk about it, and be there for each other. Awareness is key. Knowing the risk factors and being able to recognize them could help prevent the more than 40,000 deaths every year by suicide. Sometimes we’re capable of asking for or seeking the help that we need. Sometimes we’re not and we need somebody to do it for us. Be that person.
Learn to recognize these signs or symptoms: (from National Institute of Mental Health)
- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
- Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
- Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
- Talking about great guilt or shame
- Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
- Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Using alcohol or drugs more often
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
- Talking or thinking about death often
- Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
- Giving away important possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Putting affairs in order, making a will
What can you do to help someone at risk?
- Ask:“Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
- Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
- Be there:Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
- Help them connect:Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number in your phone so it’s there when you need it: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
- Stay Connected:Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.
The bottom line is that we have to be there for each other, look out for each other, and take care of each other. That’s how it’s supposed to work. We all need help sometimes. I’d like to think we do this on a regular basis, but it’s particularly valuable when we need an extra hand to get through a difficult time.
I found this great post with some ideas on how we can do this here: (highly recommended read!) http://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/small-things-help-someone-struggling-depression/
I’m fortunate to have people in my life that are supportive and do some of these things for me. I can say first-hand that it makes a significant difference on days that are more difficult. I hope that they know how much I appreciate them. It doesn’t take much effort to send a text or give somebody a quick call, but it can have a huge impact on their life. I try to do some of these same things for them, as well, just to let them know that I’m thinking of them and that I care about them. Please take a few minutes out of your day to reach out to somebody that needs it. Everybody wants and deserves to feel supported and cared for.