Listen, I think we all feel pretty awful whenever celebrities kill themselves. We feel awful whenever anyone kills themselves, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, suicide is usually kept under wraps when it comes to normal, everyday people. Here are 7 ways you can actually help people who are depressed and/or suicidal.
Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have just passed away due to a chronic condition they’ve both battled their entire lives: Depression.
Whenever a celebrity dies from something far too awful and disturbing for most people to comprehend, it becomes “Let’s talk about mental health” time. This is when you see posts on your Facebook feed from people who know absolutely nothing about mental health saying things like,
“Oh my god, they seemed so happy.”
“Please talk to me if you ever feel depressed.”
“The suicide hotline is _____. Please get help.”
LOL stop pretending this is so rare… or so random. Despite how rare it seems thanks to family and friends covering up the real cause of people’s deaths for quite awhile, suicide was actually the 10th leading cause of death in the USA in 2015, with 44,193 suicides in the country alone.
However, it is not one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.
Oh and I did hit up that Facebook girl the next time I felt depressed. She didn’t even respond.
We clearly have an epidemic, here, friends. It seems like no one knows what to do once they find out a friend has depression. It may not be that us Rainclouds have finally come out of the closet, but so many people have Depression now that it’s super commonplace.
I remember when I first started telling people I was depressed, around the age of 15 or so (14 was so bad that I attempted suicide a few times, so I thought maybe I should at least try to get help by reaching out to my community), I was shocked when someone would say, “Me too.”
It was such a relief to know that someone else was going through the same crap I was. Now that I’m in my mid-twenties (shout out to making it this far), I am less and less surprised when someone tells me they suffer from Depression. Dare I say, I rarely even care. Yup, I said it. I can name probably 50 people I know or used to know quite well who have Depression, Bipolar Disorder, or something else that comes with a side of suicidal thoughts.
It’s just no longer so rare and maybe that’s because I am open about it and I write a blog about it, so I hear about this stuff more often. Maybe just like the recent shootings and other terrible news we hear on a daily basis, we have become numb to the idea that someone wants to kill themselves. Despite that, I will never ignore someone who tells me they are depressed – EVER.
1 – Do not ignore them
Never ignore someone who tells you they are depressed or suicidal. If they told you, they told you for a reason. They are seeking help. That’s why it’s really annoying when some random person on social media who only usually post photos of themselves drunk at pool parties starts throwing out empty promises that they will listen. Talk to the person, read what they tell you. Ask them questions. In other words, be a good listener.
2 – Distract them
Yup, you need to distract them. Studies have shown that distractions sometimes help along with some exercise. The best thing you could ever do is take a depressed person outside. Yep, take them on a hike, a walk, take them to a café. Take them to a bar or club or whatever seems right at the time. They may tell you they don’t want to, but that’s the Depression speaking. Distraction helps a lot. The purpose here is to get the depressed person out of their own heads because the Monster lives in their head and it’s telling them that everything sucks. It doesn’t. Everything does not suck. Puppies exist and babies are pure. You could literally go ziplining in a waterfall in Costa Rica. That’s incredible. Take your depressed friend to Costa Rica if you have to.
3 – Surround them with love
So Depression does this thing that makes a person feel very lonely, even if they’re surrounded by people. If they are actually lonely or live alone, that’s a recipe for disaster. Their depressed brain is like, “Hey look! You’re all alone!” and your normal, functioning brain is like, “Well, it’s not wrong. I am very literally alone.” Surround that person with good people. Good people can make even the worst experiences better. If you love a depressed person, show them. Be with them. Don’t let them be alone (unless they want to go to the bathroom or something). Call them, multiple times, maybe.
4 – Be thoughtful
If you know anyone who suffers from Depression or Bipolar Disorder, it is important to make sure they know that you care about them, even if they are not suicidal at the time. Hit them up randomly. Send them a Facebook message, send a stupid meme, send them photos of cats or birds or whatever thing they are into. Call that person. Tell them you care about them, even if it seems super cheesy. You never know when someone is feeling suicidal. It can make all the difference in the world. Heck, do that with your mentally stable friends, too!
5 – Talk about it
Besides being an awesome friend and showing someone that you care, be open to talk about it, not just with them, but with others. Show them that you are not afraid to talk about mental illness in a very blunt way. Literally tell them something like, “Hey, I know you have Depression.” (Yep, use that scary, scary word). “I know that means maybe sometimes you feel like the only way out is to kill yourself.” (Say it. SAY IT LOUD!) “I just want you to know that I care about you a lot and I would be so sad if you died. I will always be there for you if you ever need help.” Even if that depressed person doesn’t reach out to you (they probably won’t), it is nice to tell them that you are there for them.
6 – Do not make them feel guilty
“You would be taking the easy way out if you killed yourself.” So… fighting Depression is, like, really really hard. It’s one of the most difficult things I have ever personally experienced, but someone who does not have Depression may not understand that. They may say something like, “You’re bringing us all down.”
Well, we know that. Sorry. It’s not our fault. Please help us. Please help us by not being a shitty person and trying to understand where we’re coming from.
Don’t you ever make someone’s Depression or suicidal thoughts about you. If you want to say something like “Think of your parents/kids/girlfriend/whatever,” hold your tongue. It’s not about them. It was never about Kate Spade’s husband or kid and how dare you call her selfish. Would you call someone who dies of cancer selfish for dying? No. This is, strangely, similar.
There’s a specific fungus that infects ants and makes them kill themselves. I’m not kidding. The fungus of the genus Ophiocordyceps infects specific ant brains and makes them infect the other ants while killing themselves. Depression is a lot like the Ophiocordyceps fungus. You’re not going to blame the zombie ant for killing itself because a fungus infected its central nervous system, rendering it helpless against the fungi’s mind-controlling power, ya? So don’t make people with Depression feel guilty. Think of it like the zombie ant fungus. We don’t actually want to kill ourselves. Depression makes us want to do that.
7 – Do not ask them to get help on their own
It should be obvious, but asking someone to get help on their own is not helpful. Giving someone the stupid, fucking suicide hotline is not helpful (and I will not give that to you here. You can send me an email, PM me on Twitter, Instagram, whatever and I will listen to you). The suicide hotline is for people who have the ability to help themselves. That’s for people who choose to go to therapy (or at least try it – therapy actually doesn’t work for everyone btw). The suicide hotline is not for you to give to someone who is asking YOU for help.
Okay, here’s an example of why that’s a messed up thing to do: Let’s say your house is on fire (it’s a small fire in the kitchen), but you’re not home (maybe you’re out of town, even), so you can’t put out the fire yourself. Your dog is in your house and you live in the middle of nowhere so the nearest fire department is 30 miles from you (I’m not even sure that’s legal, but this is an example). You call your neighbor and ask if they can save your dog.
Okay, so this is extreme. This would definitely put your neighbor in danger, so maybe the dog is outside on a leash or something. Regardless, the neighbor asks you if you have already called 911 or tried to put the fire out yourself. That’s what it feels like when someone gives you the suicide hotline.
Here’s another less extreme example: Your boyfriend just broke up with you and you feel terrible. You call your friend Jill and ask if she can meet you for drinks so you can talk about it. Jill says, “Oh my God! Have you tried talking to your mom?” That’s what it feels like when someone begs you to get help.
People don’t realize that when you tell them you are depressed, you are asking for help. How else would you ask for help? Hey can you help me motivate myself to go outside because I haven’t left my couch for 3 days and I’m lonely as hell? That’s one way to do it, but rarely people with Depression are that lucid.
How can I tell when my friends are depressed/suicidal?
Sometimes people will stop answering their phone if they are depressed. They’ll say no when you ask them to hang out. Some people will stop smiling – that’s obvious enough. Some people will dissociate – that means they will stare at walls unresponsive and seem like their brain is shut off for a bit (this is also a rare type of seizure so be wary of that). Sometimes, they will tell you. As I mentioned before, that means they are asking for help. Usually that means they are asking for a friend, for someone to talk to. Most of the time, you won’t know. Rainclouds are very good at hiding Depression. Many of us have been doing it for most of our lives. Below are a few photos of me from when I was suicidal. You never would have known. Be good, all. Be good. Be there, too.
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The author lives with Dysthymia, a form of low-level, high-functioning Depression usually associated with people who have PTSD from childhood. She has two immediate family members with Bipolar Disorder and an uncle who died from his struggle with Depression (yup, suicide). She would not speak for others without these experiences and she is happy to discuss the matter with those who may disagree with her views in the comments below.