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mental health mondays :: here for you

i didn't actually know this until a couple of hours ago, but apparently this week is suicide prevention week. a week designated to stopping people from giving in to despair. you might think that it's a waste of time, but you'd be wrong. people who are likely to commit suicide are known to telegraph signals of their intent well in advance, as a sort of subconscious scream for help.

here is an excellent summary of why this week is important from the huffington post.

here is the canadian mental health association's page on suicide. and here is their page on helping prevent it.

we've all heard the cliches of the suicidal person giving away their possessions or making arrangements for treasured possessions [or, say, pets] in the event that "something should happen to them". what we may not be as attuned to is the elation that can come from the decision to commit suicide, where a friend who has seemed depressed or desperate can suddenly become happy, without there being a change in their circumstances.

as much as we like to think that someone who talks about how they are going to kill themselves is unlikely to do so, the fact is that expression of suicidal intent is one of the biggest red flags that you can have. most times, if someone says it, it's because they've thought about it already. very seriously.

if you know someone who you think might be contemplating suicide, say something to them. the worst thing that's going to happen is that they'll know that you care and you'll have a great laugh about it.

if you are contemplating suicide, take a moment to collect your thoughts and let someone else close to you in. no one knows what you're planning and the people around you may have a very different perspective you haven't considered.

in closing, here's an anecdote from my past. during one of my lowest periods, i was thinking about ending things. i was thinking about it a lot, because i just couldn't see a positive future for myself. one day, while i was at work- i was doing a lot of volunteer work for a community radio station at the time, although i don't think that i'd actually joined the paid staff at that particular moment. i guess i had gone off on a particularly negative rant to one of the other volunteers. it was atypical of me, since i usually kept things on a light, humourous level with everyone. the person to whom i was speaking took a long pause and said "don't go doing anything stupid, ok?" we had a very fun, joking relationship to that point and i think that the person was unsure how to respond. so he had said the first thing that came into his mind.

that moment changed my life. it made me realise that others were aware of me and that people cared about me enough for it to matter if i were gone. it wasn't a big speech or someone sitting me down to have a talk. it was a sudden, serious thought interjected into our daily banter, but it made me aware that i might matter to people. and that realisation was all it took to pull me one crucial rung higher on my black hole of depression. i didn't magically get healed and feel better, but it was an important step. and it might have saved me.

so let me reiterate:

if you think that someone you know is depressed enough to be contemplating suicide, say something. say anything. you never know what's going to help.

if you are contemplating suicide:

just try letting your demons out for a moment so that others can see them. you might be surprised at how many people want to help you drive them away.

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