The recent death of Robin Williams has brought the somewhat socially taboo topics of depression and suicide to the table. These topics are so often swept under the table or dismissed using any number of clever conversational tactics.
Robin Williams was in good company where depression is concerned. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), around 16 MILLION (almost 7% of adult Americans) had at least one major depressive episode in a single 12-month period (as of 2012). See http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1mdd_adult.shtml for more info. According to an article on MarketWatch, general unhappiness is on the rise. I can speculate that depression rates will be seen to climb as well.
Depression is a common problem, and it can be debilitating.
Unfortunately, depression sufferers are sometimes met with responses that are the rough equivalent of grabbing a patient’s broken leg and giving it a good twist.
Just as a person can accidentally cause physical injuries to someone else, we can cause psychological injuries as well if we behave callously.
If you are having some issues with depression and choose to talk to me, you will NOT get the following:
- ”Stop being so self-centered/selfish. Maybe if you’d think about others more than yourself, you wouldn’t have these problems.”
- ”You need to repent. You’re obviously estranged from God and need to get your life right.” (yes, I’ve heard this said on MANY occassions)
- ”Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get over it.”
- ”Just turn that frown upside-down!”
- ”Um… can we talk about something happy/socially acceptable?” (or some other thing that implies this)
- Slowly backing away as if you are contagious or are teetering on the edge of mass murder
- “God doesn’t let suicides into Heaven, you know.” (if I had a quarter for every time….)
What you MAY get from me, if I am able to say anything useful at all:
- Yes, I actually DO understand. I know the feelings, I know the symptoms, and I know how debilitating those symptoms can be in their most severe forms.
- Yes, get some counselling (I’ve gone myself), but I want to stress that this is not something you should be ashamed of. Also, counselling can be done discreetly. Remember privacy laws, after all. If you just go in for counselling, NOBODY HAS TO KNOW! It’s none of their dang business.
- If you have been suicidal in the past, even if you have acted on it, you survived it. I hope you have had amazing moments since then that have made you happy that you got to experience them. Please remember those times if you’re slipping again.
- One of the best preventative things you could do is the thing a person suffering from depression often wants to do LEAST: Interact with someone. A common response of depression is to isolate, to withdraw. Try not to do this. Try to interact. It can be like moving through molasses to do it, but do your best.
Those suffering from depression need compassion and encouragement. Those of you who are not personally familiar with its effects may need to use some patience (and tact), especially if you are accustomed to being able to pull yourself back up without a hitch.