This post is highly sensitive.
Due to recent events of depression and suicide being a big topic lately, I’ve decided to make a post to share a bit of awareness in a medical point of view and mixing it with a bit of my own experiences.
I am a licensed nurse in the state of Nevada and in the Philippines. I’m also licensed physician in the Philippines. I’ve had experiences in dealing with psychiatric patients who are both depressed and suicidal and have had experiences with being depressed with suicidal thoughts myself. This is a very sensitive topic for me because honestly this is my first time opening up about it. My family doesn’t know about this (unless they’re reading this now) and only a few friends know. But yes, I have dealt with suicidal ideations so many times in my life. What makes me think these thoughts? Here are a few things about depression I want to share with you.
Depression is a real illness and it comes in many forms. I think this is what makes it difficult for most people to tell. It affects different people in different ways. Depression is different from sadness. You cannot just recover right away from clinical depression. Most people with depressive disorder need medications in order to get better. They need to get seen and be treated.
Here are a few things to look out for aside from sadness:
This means that activities that the person usually find pleasurable aren’t appealing to them anymore. This change might be sudden or occurs over time. It’s basically a feeling of being numb. There’s no more excitement and nothing to look forward to.
2. Altered sleeping patterns
Difficulty going to sleep and waking up is another thing. Even oversleeping can be a sign. Especially if that person wasn’t like this before. I get this when depression hits. I think to myself “what’s the use of getting up?” Which leads to feelings of worthlessness and emptiness.
3. Poor memory and concentration
There’s difficulty in remembering events and dates. Even the most recent things like forgetting where you placed your keys. It’s also hard to concentrate due to constant thinking of depressing thoughts. This can then affect your decision making. I hate making decisions when I’m in one of my moods. It makes me feel that whatever I decide would lead to a mistake. Feelings of guilt and hopelessness would slowly creep in when something I decided on goes wrong.
4. Appetite changes
It could either go two ways. You don’t have the appetite to eat anything which leads to weight loss. Or you eat a lot, like stress eating, and you gain weight.
5. Low self-esteem
This is one of the most common problem that you see in people who are depressed. Just like me. I have problems with self worth most of the time. I believe that I don’t have anything worth giving to the world. That I’m a bad wife, mom, and daughter. That is why people with depression don’t appreciate compliments. They believe that the compliments they receive are back-handed and untrue.
6. Behavior changes
This is probably most commonly seen in younger children or teenagers. From a happy child, they suddenly turn moody, irritable, and aggressive. It could also be from being active, they suddenly seem more isolated and quiet. They feel misunderstood and anxious.
Hot tips for dealing with children and teens:
- Offer emotional support. Remind them that you are there and that they can always talk to you.
- Always count your child’s feelings. No matter how small or insignificant you might think their problems are, they might mean the world to them.
- Do your best to be understanding and patient. I know it’s difficult to handle your child acting out or talking back to you. But remember that they are dealing with something that needs treatment.
7. Suicidal ideations
This would probably be the last step. What many don’t know is how to look out for it. As a nurse, we are trained to watch out for the signs. This includes:
- a sudden lift in mood. From being depressed, they suddenly “feel better”,
- giving away things that are important to them such as prized possessions,
- isolating from family and friends or saying goodbye to them, and
- increased use of alcohol or drugs.
There are other warning signs that are more open and obvious such as the person actually talking about ending one’s life. I just mentioned the ones that are not too noticeable.
But never forget that most depressed people, especially the chronically depressed, know how to mask their expressions. Chronically depressed individuals do not cry anymore. And most of their actions begin to appear normal. They might look strong and happy to you but they might be battling an inner war. So never forget to check on your family member, friend, or co-worker. You never know what’s going on with them.
How do we get help?
I’ve always believed that talking about it helps a lot. That’s what I did. When I finally couldn’t handle it, I decided to talk to just one person. And it has helped me so much. Not all the way but bit by bit I felt that I could cope again. It comes and goes but it taught me that there is always a way to at least divert my thoughts. But the thing is, most people who battle depression don’t want to talk to other people. They either isolate themselves or pretend they’re fine.
I think each of us should also try to reach out to our family and friends once in a while. We might not know who is depressed but just chatting with someone goes a long way. Also, we should always be mindful of our words. One of the factors that started my depression was because a person close to me loved to degrade and put me down. It’s the little things that you may just brush of because you said it out of anger. But you didn’t know the hateful things you say to a person sticks with them. We are all different. We handle stress and accept things differently. What might be a small insignificant thing for you is a very big deal to me.
Do’s and Don’ts
This focuses on people you know who are known to be depressed. Or is undergoing a major life change or loss.
- Speak slowly because most depressed people have slower thought process.
- Listen more. Just stay beside the person. Just being there is already helping to those who don’t want to talk about their problem.
- Maintain regular interaction. Try not to keep them isolated.
- Be careful with compliments. This might make them feel worse.
- Make no demands. Never force them to get help or do things they do not want to do.
- If they do feel better and they want to talk, let them describe what they’re feeling. Let them know you understand them.
- Activities such as walking and running are very helpful. But remember to not force it on them.
What a lot of people don’t do because they get scared of what it might do to the person is actually confronting the person. But in situations where you think that the person you know or love might be contemplating on suicide, the best way to help them is to ask them bluntly.
“Are you thinking about harming yourself?”
This simple question opens up the topic that the person needs to address and at the same time will start a conversation that can help you understand the person more. By simply talking about it, you are preventing the person from doing the act. Or at least prolonging it while you can still get professional help.
I truly believe that everybody needs to be educated about this. This is an issue that need to be addressed and look into. Depression is a rampant illness everywhere that is commonly overlooked because it’s mostly not physical. People tend to forget that the mind is very powerful thing. It makes you believe something which are not true.
I hope that one day I can be an advocate for those suffering with depression. To give hope to those who have lost it. Depression can be treated. Sometimes all you need to do is ask for help.
Remember to also be kind. There is so much hate and judgement in the world today. Kindness can be a big impact to someone you don’t know. It could lift their mood that might change their lives. So never be scared to share your smile and brightness to the world. You never know who might need it.
If you know anyone or you yourself is suffering from depression, don’t be afraid to reach out to helplines. Or even talking to a family member or a friend can be a start. I am also here. You can talk to me anytime. You can email me or message me in social media.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
National Hopeline Network: 1-800-784-2433