There is a lot going on in the world. These are very complicated and challenging times and may be depressing for many. Mental illness and depression are serious business. There are some people who feel down on certain days or just feel insecure about themselves. These feelings may be temporary but for others they last for a period of time. Being unmotivated, depressed or sad is a difficult thing for a friend or family to watch someone going through. It is unbearable to not know what to do for a person who is hurting especially in a world where some people are unforgiving about one's circumstance. It is even tougher for the person who is experiencing the feelings of despair.
Depression can range from the winter blues to complicated clinical depression. Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming and these holidays even though they are supposed to be happy times are not for many. Keep in touch with those who have had a catastrophic loss in their lives, especially the elderly who are often alone after a spouse dies.
Lately the news has been startling regarding suicides. There are many young individuals who are deciding to commit suicide after becoming depressed due to bullying. I am not sure if depression is situational or a medical situation in each case. However, every single time I hear about a young person committing suicide it makes me want to know more about the personal make up of the individual. People who are depressed begin to isolate themselves from others and feel like they are alone during hard times. Most family and friends do not know what to do and feel helpless.
Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Phyllis Hyman and Donny Hathaway are some famous people who have committed suicide. It tells us that money and fame are not all that there is to living a fruitful and happy life. Anyone can be impacted by feelings of depression.
Some people who usually are feeling depressed do not want you to help them solve their problems. I am sure that they have had the solutions that you want to give them are already running through their head already. Sometimes they just want you to listen and empathize with them. They want to know that you are going to be there for them regardless of what they are going through. People who are feeling blue sometimes need to be reminded that in reality people do love them. The job of truly assisting a person medically should be left to the professionals.
Getting a person who is depressed out of the house may be instrumental. Walking, talking, shopping, cooking or into whatever you know that your friend loves may help them get up and moving around. Be mindful that they may not want to at first but because you have not given up on them they know you care. Prod gently without being judgmental. It only makes the situation worse.
Asking the person how you can help or what you can do for them is also very important. When depression hits, one becomes very unmotivated and may feel like they are in a black hole and there is not much that can change their lives. Ask them to look towards the future and telling the person that it may be difficult to see the future but it will be better may help as well.
Clinical depression can happen to the best of us. It may be that a person feels that their life is falling apart or the stress of life's challenges that may be causing frustration and sadness combined. It may be a miscarriage, death, loss of a job, dealing with a family member with a debilitating disease can lead to major depression. Please note that if a person is a caretaker as well it may cause some depression too. Be kinder to people especially if you know they have recently had a loss. My mother always told me if you have nothing nice to say, do not say anything at all.
It becomes worse when there are common comorbid conditions ie. alcohol and depression, pill usage and depression or other substance abuse issues. Coupling depression with bipolar, addictive personality disorders or other mental issues can be devastating.
Our journey towards understanding suicide is far from finished. Even when you face a crises you deal with each differently. Calling a suicide victim a coward is a critical judgement call. Working together to create a better understanding of mental illness and depression as a disease is something that should be paramount in this ever stressful world.
P.S. I am not a doctor and would suggest that if you are dealing with any issues surrounding depression that you get medical or psychological assistance.
This column was printed in the October 5, 2014 - October 18, 2014 edition.