Have you ever woken up on a Saturday and couldn’t get out of bed? Have there been times you knew you should have gotten dressed, done your hair, brushed your teeth or cleaned your house and spent the rest of the evening beating yourself up because you never did?
You might have been depressed. In recognition of Suicide Awareness and Prevention month, I dedicate my column to something very important to me: mental health.
I have been touched, in many aspects of my life, by mental illness. From my friend Kayla who died mixing pills and alcohol, to family members with schizophrenia and severe bi-polar disorder.
I have friends and family suffering from post-traumatic stress, suicidal thoughts and addiction.
I have been traumatized and spent days in bed, blaming myself and not knowing why I couldn’t get up. Now I know, and it can be treated. There’s hope.
Depression is not an ugly word. A doctor once told me that a sure sign of depression is lack of motivation and the tendency to blame yourself for it. It’s even more clear when the blame game still doesn’t get you out of bed but only makes you hate yourself more.
You are down on yourself for being “lazy,” or “knowing better,” getting angry because now the day is gone and you’ve accomplished nothing.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, symptoms of depression are changes in sleep or appetite, lack of concentration, loss of energy, lack of interest in activities, hopelessness or guilty thoughts, changes in movement like less activity or agitation, physical aches and pains, and sadly, suicidal thoughts.
Suicide is increasing exponentially in our country and one reason is because people don’t want to talk about depression. It’s hard sometimes because you may not know you’re depressed, people may not listen, they may blame you or talk with a fix-it mentality. The truth is, if you could “just fix it,” you would have already. Don’t let these fears discourage you from talking to someone when something feels wrong.
For the confidants, when people say they are depressed, don’t ask why.
Instead listen, wait them out to see if they’ll say more and then maybe ask these questions: What makes you think you’re depressed? Have you thought of hurting yourself? Have you told your family? Do you have someone you can talk to and get treatment? The truth is there isn’t always a “why.” Depression is an illness, a state of being, it isn’t something people can pinpoint and say, “That, that right there is why I am depressed,” wipe it away and be good.
Sure, some things lead to depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, trauma, genetics, life circumstances, brain changes, medical conditions and substance abuse can lead to depression — basically everything.
“Depression does not have a single cause,” NAMI’s website states. “It can be triggered by a life crisis, physical illness or something else — but it can also occur spontaneously.”
If someone tells you they are depressed or you begin to see symptoms, it is so important that we as a people begin to confront it head on. This needs to be a conversation we aren’t afraid to have. If you are depressed, tell a doctor, a friend, your family. If you know someone who is depressed, let them know it isn’t their fault, they are valued, they are safe and there is a better life right around the corner.
Learn how to find help. Learn how to confront this epidemic of mental illness and help be the cure to suicide in our country.