This week was my turn to speak to you all about the building blocks of self-esteem, character building and leadership and I had another topic planned…until late this afternoon (August 11, 2014). I was in my living room getting ready to go to work when I heard the news report stating the Robin Williams died of an apparent suicide. My heart drops even now writing those words. A man that has undoubtedly touched the lives of millions of people worldwide with his talents and spirit lost hope for another day.
Immediately, seemingly well-meaning people sound off with their words of “suggestion” and others judgment on how Mr. Williams could have dealt with his soul wrenching pain or how people with suicidal ideation can “reach out” to people for help. I choose to believe each and every one of these people truly believe their words are truth and will help those in need in the future. However, people under the veil of depression are consumed with the warped picture the illness has created in their minds. It is important to understand that depression is a physiological, mental, emotional and spiritual condition. Therefore, it is a serious health concern that needs to be addressed by a trained professional (social worker, therapist, psychologist…). A good example is that you wouldn’t tell a person with diabetes, “Lay off the sugar and you should be fine”.
What qualifies me to speak about depression and somewhat lecture on this health crisis? Other than the fact that I am a MSW (Masters of Social Work) and work with people with depression frequently in my line of work…I too struggle with anxiety and depression.
I have been told since I was too young to know better that I should be able to “snap out of it,” “stop worrying,” “stop crying, you have nothing to cry about,” etc. I can’t speak for everyone with depression because like any other condition, it manifests differently in different people but hearing those words made me feel weak and insignificant. I usually explain depression to my patients and families like a cult that has to brainwash you so that you can’t hear the truth about your amazing, unique self and then the next natural step is isolation. That beast, depression, can’t live unless you are isolated (not necessarily physical but in your mind) from the people and activities you love.
This brings me to my main point of writing this blog post. I am wildly passionate about reaching out to people who are thinking about taking their lives, reaching my arm down the black hole of depression and sharing in the struggle with them to get themselves out. I think that is where the disconnect is in American society. We ask people already struggling to get out of bed in the morning to reach out for help. By the very definition of the condition, the physical/mental/emotional energy is not there. I am challenging the readers of this blog to think differently about depression and suicide. Let’s not wait till we lose another icon or loved one.
Often times, you will hear friends and family of the person who committed suicide say “There were no signs”, “We were just at dinner like always”, etc. There are usually some clear signs of depression, if you are attentive and invested. Once again, it is a good time to remind you that if you notice a friend or a loved one exhibiting signs of depression and/or suicide ideation (thoughts and verbal plans to hurt themselves), please contact a mental health professional.
I am asking you all to join me in lifting some of the stigma of depression/suicide and reach out to our loved ones that are hurting and feel alone. No one should think there is no hope in tomorrow. RIP Mr. Williams and the millions that left too soon before you. Please give them a hug for me and tell them their lives were not in vein. We will see a better day for those struggling with depression.
Take good care,
Depression and Suicide Resources
What Are Symptoms of Depression?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Taken from WebMD, August 11, 2014
Warning signs of suicide with depression include:
- A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
- Always talking or thinking about death
- Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
- Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving through red lights
- Losing interest in things one used to care about
- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
- Saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”
- Talking about suicide (killing one’s self)
- Visiting or calling people one cares about
Remember, if you or someone you know is demonstrating any of the above warning signs of suicide with depression, either call your local suicide hot line, contact a mental health professional right away, or go to the emergency room for immediate treatment.
Taken from WebMD, August 11, 2014
Mental Health Professionals available
- Suicide Hotline 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-Suicide)
- NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates – Speaking with NAMI members (individuals living with mental illness and family members) can be a good way to exchange information about mental health professionals in your local community. You can find your state or local NAMI organization at www.nami.org.
- Primary Care Physician (PCP) – Your primary physician or pediatrician is an excellent resource for making recommendations and referrals to a mental health specialist or therapist in your area.
- Your Insurance Provider – Contact your insurance company for a list of mental health care providers included in your insurance plan.
- American Psychiatric Association (APA) – The APA can give you names of APA members in your area. Find your state branch online, consult your local phone book or call (703) 907-7300.
- Psychiatry department at local teaching hospital or medical school.
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW) – NASW has an online directory of clinical social workers. Visitwww.socialworkers.org and click on Resources or call (202) 408-8600.
- American Psychological Association (APA) – The APA can refer to local psychologists by calling 1 (800) 374-2721.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Mental Health Services –SAMHSA has an online database of mental health and substance abuse services and facilities in each state. Visitwww.samhsa.gov/treatment and click on Mental Health Services Locator.
Taken from NAMI.org, August 11, 2014