By Sue Ellen Pabst
Transitions Counseling Services
“Snap out of it.” “Get busy.” “Quit feeling sorry for yourself.” “A lot of people are worse off than you.” Depression sufferers often hear such messages and occasionally even apply them to themselves. When they can’t get motivated, their depression thickens.
All of us will experience depression at some points in our lives. Grief is a form of depression that occurs with the loss of loved ones, but it can also occur with major life changes, even joyful events. Grief is often accompanied with the following symptoms, which are identified as depression:
• Sleeping pattern shifts (can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep, waking early, oversleeping)
• Restless or slowed movements
• Loss of energy/constant fatigue
• Appetite or weight shifts (as with sleep, either too little or too much)
• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt for no real reason
• Trouble concentrating or making decisions
• Repeated thoughts of death or suicide
Anyone experiencing five of these symptoms for a two-week period suffers from clinical depression and should seek help (see end of column for more information). Some people display these symptoms without any discernible cause. Such depression is caused by the lack of chemicals released by the brain.
You can compare such mental depression with the physical illness of diabetes. A diabetic has a pancreas which fails to produce adequate insulin. The depression sufferer has a brain which fails to supply sufficient serotonin. And, similar to diabetes, there are varying types and degrees of depression. In extreme cases, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts. Suicide was the third leading cause of death in adolescents, according to The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 2007. If you are concerned that someone you know is contemplating suicide, you can assist by asking direct, sensitive questions. For example: Do you think about hurting yourself? Have you thought about how you would do it? Have you chosen a time and place? Do you have the means to do this?
Asking these questions will not push someone into suicide; the fact is that by showing concern, you are far more likely to prevent the act. Always take the person seriously and believe what he or she says. Do you think the person is just trying to get attention? Then give it. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you know someone is considering harm or death:
• Don’t leave the person alone.
• Try to determine if s/he is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or may have taken an overdose.
• Call 911 or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the emergency room yourself.
• Tell a family member or friend what’s occurring.
It is possible that a depression sufferer may have told you things in confidence, demanding loyalty and secrecy. In the case of a possible suicide, you have a greater obligation. You can apologize later for betraying a confidence; you can’t apologize if your friend or loved one is dead. If you or someone you know suffers with depression, get help. Treatments are available. Contact your family doctor and/or a talk therapist/counselor to begin recovery.
This isn’t a matter of “snap out of it” or “quit feeling sorry for yourself.” It is a real and painful condition which requires assistance. Get it.
S.H.E. is a monthly publication for local women,
published every third Saturday of the month in The Daily News.