Thursday, September 4, 2014

How to Help a Loved One Who is Depressed or Suicidal

It is difficult to get close to someone who is depressed. It can be, well, depressing, and frustrating and infuriating and maddening and sad and concerning. Trying to reach through the darkness to a loved one who is buried in depression can make you feel completely inadequate and helpless. You may begin to feel unloved or unappreciated and may want to distance yourself emotionally as a measure of protection.

Just as the person who is depressed may feel overwhelming helplessness, loved ones can feel quite the same. Helpless to know what to do or how they can help.  Even as someone who struggles with depression, I don’t often know what to do to assist those around me when they are feeling more than “blue” or a bit anxious.

What can I do to help my loved one who is depressed or suicidal?

First of all, know that a person who is suicidal may not ask for help. They may push you away, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want help. Most people who commit suicide don’t want to die, they just want to stop hurting. Almost 1 million people attempt suicide each year in the US and it is estimated that 5 million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves at some point in their lives.

Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs, taking them seriously, and speaking up if you are worried. When talking to a suicidal person, let the person know you care, listen (don’t lecture), be sympathetic and non-judgmental, offer hope (but don’t argue, patronize, or try to “fix” their problems), and know that you are not putting ideas in the person’s head when you ask directly if he/she has had thoughts of suicide.

Recognize these warning signs of suicide, excerpted from (©):
  • Talking about suicide: Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as "I wish I hadn't been born," "If I see you again..." and "I'd be better off dead."
  • Seeking out lethal means: Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
  • Preoccupation with death: Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
  • No hope for the future: Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped ("There's no way out"). Belief that things will never get better or change.
  • Self-loathing, self-hatred: Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden ("Everyone would be better off without me").
  • Getting affairs in order: Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
  • Saying goodbye: Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again.
  • Withdrawing from others: Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
  • Self-destructive behavior: Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a "death wish."
  • Sudden sense of calm: A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.

Read this post in its entirety:
What Can I Do to Help My Loved One Who is Depressed or Suicidal?

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