I am not a mental health expert or medical professional and therefore, only speak from my personal experiences with depression and what has felt like a life-long battle with something I have little control over. As I’ve mentioned in previous podcast episodes, I lost a close family friend to suicide when I was 16 years old. I, personally, had a front row seat to his depression, which exponentially became worse in a short amount of time. Because I witnessed the stigma and consequences of remaining silent, I now speak up about these issues in an effort to help someone in need.
Data shows (thank you, CDC) that suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between 10 and 35 years old. Between 2005 and 2016, suicide among this age group has increased by approximately 38%, which is higher than the rate at which the total US population has grown (9.4%). These rates are alarming because it tells a story about what is being uncovered in our society, but it often not discussed until it is too late. People with depression often suffer in silence and since the symptoms can be hidden from the public, treatment is not offered unless it’s sough by the patient. When we hear of someone who is terminally diagnosed with cancer, it’s common to find people around them that offer meals, time or words of encouragement. Often, a terminal illness can deteriorate a person to such a degree that if you have the ability to see, it’s obvious something has gone terribly wrong. But with depression, the person may look different and therefore, everyone continues with their day while a dark illness hides behind the many masks one can wear throughout the day.
I speak about this on the podcast because it’s essential that we begin to address and acknowledge that mental illness is a serious matter that is currently becoming worse by the day. On average, about 123 people commit suicide per day. People need our help as well as the resources and information to seek the help of others as well, especially professionals.
When my depression was at its darkest moments, I craved interactions with people the most. I simply needed to be reminded that I was loved. For me, this is where I began to develop an even greater spiritual practice. But for others, this could mean receiving a “just because” phone call on a consistent basis. We’re living in a digital era that revolves around social media and communicating through Instagram stories or Facebook posts. But at the end of the day, we are all still human and still carry the same neurotransmitters we did 20 years ago. We are all still capable of feeling emotions such as loneliness, joy and sadness. Our gadgets may have changed, but we have not.
Accepting that treatment for depression may be an ongoing procedure is also a great tip when it comes to helping someone with depression. If you know that a few words of encouragement may suffice that day, but may be needed again tomorrow, you’re more likely to view mental illness with a different perspective. Be patient and consistent with people that suffer from depression because living with a cloud of darkness is not the kind of life anyone desires. If they knew how to take it away, believe me, they would.
Many physical illnesses can be complicated and therefore, when someone is diagnosed, those around them become curious by asking questions regarding prognosis, treatment, symptoms, origin, etc. It is a support system that allows many people to attend difficult treatment procedures that impact their mobility and quality of life. Knowing that you’re surrounded by people that genuinely care about your well-being is fuel and many times the differentiating factor in a recovery process–the same principle applies to depression.
I remember feeling even more isolated and sad after friends and family found out I was severely clinically depressed. They expressed compassion for the first 24-48 hours, but quickly forgot about my illness. Because I did not have to report to a treatment facility or undergo surgery that would later cause vomiting, they did not understand. The few that became inquisitive about my emotions on a daily basis were the ones that felt like a ray of sunlight in the long-run. Become curious about the person that opens the door to have this conversation. Often times, it’s a cry for help and consistent support and unsolicited love is the dose of medicine many need to seek the path that’ll lead them towards recovery.
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