Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden
We like myths. Typically, fiction is easier to understand than reality because it is simple, made-up, and serves to satisfy curiosity without the need for research. Half-truths are more dangerous; we are usually willing to settle for the somewhat believable and not ask hard questions of it.
Such myths create religions, ideologies, social conscience, and… wait for it…stigma. While sharing my experiences with depression and attempted suicide, high school students often react to the idea of professional treatment with suspicion. How easily stigma can, and does, prevent suffering people from getting expert help! Instead, teens talk to their friends, parents, and teachers who want to help but may be as caught up in myths surrounding depression and suicide as the one who is hurting so badly.
This series, “Lack of Knowledge Is Killing Our Teens,” has covered symptoms, warning signs, risk factors, causes, and statistics related to depression and suicide and teenagers. I will end it with a look at some very common myths surrounding these life or death topics.
Most youth suicides occur in winter months, especially around the holidays. Actually, both adult and youth suicides tend to increase in the spring and summer months. November-January record the lowest suicide rates.
Only certain types of people become suicidal. Race, gender, socio-economic status, religion, education, age, and other superficial factors do not automatically include or exclude people from suicide. Neither does mental illness, not even depression.
Suicide is painless. Trying to harm one’s body and end life is often very painful.
Suffering long-term or repeat depression, or dying by suicide is proof of selfishness, self-pity, lack of faith, or a flawed character. Depression is a condition that may be triggered by circumstances. It is manageable only after one learns how. It’s an unfair double standard to equalize depression or suicide with poor character.
It is better to put painful memories out of your mind. This doesn’t work! Whatever we do not deal with directly will come out in indirect ways. Depression and self-harm can be two of those ways.
Expressing feelings that are intense is the same as losing control. It is necessary to get intense feelings out in safe places without hurting anyone. Depression is often expressed as irritability in young people.
People who talk about suicide won’t do it. Suicidal people keep it to themselves. Almost everyone who attempts or completes suicide has given warning signs through their words or behaviors. Do not ignore suicide threats. Know the warning signs (parts five and six of this series.) People who talk about wanting to die by suicide may kill themselves.*
If a person is determined to kill himself, nothing I do is going to stop it. Only experts can stop suicide. If you find yourself with someone in the process of or planning to act on suicidal thoughts, first call 9.1.1. Don’t risk further harm to them or yourself. Also keep the following in mind:
“Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want to die; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end their life, however overpowering, does not last forever.” ** Any positive response can change the intensity of the moment.
Talking about suicide might make someone consider it. Everyone knows suicide exists. Depressed people understand it is a possibility. Asking about or discussing suicide will not give a person the idea. The opposite is true. From what I have personally observed and in agreement with most research, those in great emotional turmoil want someone to show they care. Talking about suicide brings relief, not distress. It lowers anxiety and hope increases.
People who attempt suicide and do not die are just trying to get attention and are not really serious. Seeking attention IS seeking help and vice versa! If needs are unmet to the degree one would go to the extreme of harming himself at all, help is obviously needed. Some attempts do not end in death because lethality of the means was overestimated, or access to more lethal means was denied. Some suicide deaths are averted because of interruptions such as being found. The number one risk factor for completed suicide is a previous attempt. Any attempt, regardless of severity, must be taken seriously.
The leading cause of suicide is the family of mood disorders including major depression and bipolar depression. Over 10% of young people have a mood disorder. Only half of these receive treatment due to inaccessibility, unaffordability, stigma against treatment, and lack of knowledge about their condition and treatment options. ***
Please stay informed.
********Comments are always welcome (see tab below).NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.