Check-in. What next? Dealing with Depression and the idea of Suicide.

Apparently…..95%of my timeline now suffers from depression. Meanwhile, about 1% of the 95 have sought help for said depression. Why?

Everyone’s sharing how everyone needs to check in on they friend and help….but damn, how sway? If everyone depressed, how we supposed to check on each other?

Some of these posts that are supposed to be motivating folk to check on depressed friends actually do nothing more than shift the responsibility of someone else’s life onto everyone else. It teaches those on the outside that THEY are responsible for another person’s mental health and that is unfair.

One of the main things I heard from my therapist whenever I sought help for my mental health was, “…the first step is recognizing you need help…the second is actually being willing to receive the help….”.

There is a level of self responsibility in all of this. That’s not to be harsh or insensitive…I’ve walked this path more than once. I’ve placed the blame at the feet of family, friends, God, lack….I’ve placed my will to live in the hands of others, basing it on how long they stay around and how much they check in….

It always fails. It is hard for even the most genuine person to become consumed with someone else’s pain for long periods of time. It takes a special gift of compassion and empathy that most of us don’t have. We may desire to be that, but most people eventually begin to view the depressed and/or suicidal as attention-seeking burdens obsessed with their own pain.

In frustration, we say things like “…why don’t you just get over it?”. We stop “checking-in” and begin to avoid. Depression can be contagious, too much time in the pit leaves you in danger of remaining there. So, we distance ourselves. Not out of malice, but out of self preservation.

It’s natural…for most. Unless you’re genuinely depressed…especially to the point of suicide. Those suffering depression, to the point if suicide have no desire to preserve themselves. If there is any chance at survival, they must develop a will to live (i.e. a will for self preservation).

YOU can’t become that for anyone.

Checking in is great; but, how does that help someone develop the desire to survive?

To go to the extreme of self annihilation, one must feel hopeless. This hopelessness is typically accompanied with (or the result of) a chemical or hormonal imbalance within the body. It is sometimes the result of a tragic experience or ongoing suffering. Addiction is likely involved.

Let’s be honest, our friends and family are HIGHLY UNQUALIFIED to help them out of the darkness.

Half of them wouldn’t know what to say anyway. They’re version of “checking in” is telling you to pray about it, go to a party, have a drink, you just need to socialize, or “you just gotta get up and keep on living” …and a suicidal person’s inability to do so is baffling to the point of frustration.

It is true, a person does have to make the choice to “get up and keep on living”, but that’s definitely not something you say to someone who is laying in ICU after swallowing an entire bottle of prescription drugs. If they WANTED to keep on living they wouldn’t trying to swallow an entire bottle of…. you know what, I’m ranting, let us move on.

Sure, you can “check-in” and even “show up”, but if “checking-in” and “showing up” stopped suicide or depression, we would see much less of it in the world.

When a person commits suicide those closest to them often comment, “I had no idea, s/he was fine earlier that day…I don’t know what happened!” It’s not that people aren’t checking in. Many are.

The idea that everyone who commits suicide does so because no one bothered to “check in” or care is flawed. Not to mention it is a slap in the face to those who are actually suffering the loss of someone who departed from suicide. It reintroduces the heartwrenching idea that why could’ve/should’ve done more and it’s their fault their loved one is gone because they didn’t “check in” enough.

Suicide is sometimes planned, but often not. It is typically considered in advance, but rarely disclosed. You could check in one morning and they’re on cloud nine, but that evening they’re in ICU for another attempt…now you’re confused…guilty…upset…afraid…Now you’re blaming yourself for not doing more to stop it.

“I should’ve called again” you chastise yourself.

You could’ve. Maybe it would’ve made a difference. Maybe it wouldn’t have done a damn thing.

Most people considering suicide understand the people around them will try to stop them because they wouldn’t want them to die. They know people know the “signs” and have learned how not to portray them. Plus, once they suspect you know, they’ll often try even harder to appear “well” whenever you’re around.

So, yea. Checking in is great. But, what next?

Our attention spans are often unequipped to help someone through such a hardship in life unless we’ve also been there ourselves (and sometimes we still aren’t equipped even if we have).

Suicide isn’t an idea one comes to because they had a few bad days in the year, it’s a last resort.

It is the perverted idea that more hope can be found in death than in life.

It is the thought that NO ONE understands and unfortunately “NO ONE” includes those closest to them. Sadly, they can’t understand because the one hurting too often can’t even express their pain.

If you’ve ever read the stories of those left behind, you will too often learn parents and friends tried to get help to no avail. They sent the individual to therapy, sometimes even mental health facilities, they got the medication, monitored the doses, created the “safe spaces” and gave the individual their time to process….

In the end, what they could not give was the will to live to someone who had none. What’s worse, they now live with the burden of believing they could have.

I’m not saying “DON’T CHECK-IN” – CHECK! Check-in, show up, be a shoulder, an ear, a hand, a heart….hell, if you really about saving that life, sleep on couches and take shifts to ensure they’re never alone….but understand -you cannot take on the blame, if all your checking ends in mourning.

Here’s a few ideas:

Be there, but also be equipped with resources for your loved ones.

Don’t just show up with beer and pizza and force them to laugh, take them to a support group and let them know it’s okay to be silent.

GoFundMe, raffle a prize, wash cars, collect donations for therapy. But DON’T post about your friend’s mental health. Get creative, you can say you’re taking up donations to assit individuals in need of therapy. No one has to know who. Give the funds to a friend in need.

Ask your friend if they’re willing to see a therapist. Offer to go with them if they’re afraid.

Share your experience with depression and how seeking help saved you (if you’ve been there).

Contact the police and the person’s close family if you are concerned for their immediate safety. If they have no close family in the area (or they are estranged) YOU BE THAT.

If you’re struggling with helping a friend, be honest and tell them “I’m concerned for you, but I’m also concerned I dont know how to help you.” Ask them if they can tell you what they need.

If they’re depressed, but not suicidal, you can provide help with things like: laundry, grocery shopping, meals, stopping by for a few moments, calling or texting regularly, including them when you host things (they may not come but it’s still nice to know someone wanted to around despite your depression), grab the kids for a few hours, lawn work, etc.

You can also create a support group of friends and family in which you all just open up and share our hardships.

Sometimes, uniting in suffering is the only way to overcome it…but even then, we must understand that as much as we want to make ourselves the messiah to someone’s suffering, life is a choice and the will to live is a gift no man can give.

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