It’s so sad to think about what depression is doing to us and those we love, either because so many are living in that dark pit of depression and unable to live, love or laugh, or because some are driven to take their lives just to escape the talons of depression. In the last couple of months alone, I have heard of so many suicides due to depression and the sad thing is that as surviving family and friends we usually say “I didn’t know he/she was going through so much!”
On the other hand, I have also heard another comment that is flippantly thrown around following a suicide where people generalise by saying “He/she was so selfish to commit suicide!” Really? Let’s break that down a bit. Now I know that there are some people who take their own lives to punish or get back at others, but we cannot generalise and assume that all suicides are selfish. Some people are driven to that point because they feel completely helpless. Some believe they have no other alternative but to take their own life.
Some do it because they feel they are protecting those they love. Where is the selfishness there? I think as humans it is sometimes easier for us to condemn the person and the act as a way of relieving the guilt we feel when we didn’t reach out to them. And sadly some of us don’t even think about what it means to accuse someone of selfishness following suicide. We declare that the victim has ‘taken the easy way out’ of dealing with whatever was plaguing them.
Let me dispel that theory by saying it is not always the case. In some cases suicide is probably the hardest thing the victim has ever done, and yet so strong are the demons driving them to it that they feel it is the only way.
I am no expert on depression or suicide, but I do know that it is happening far too often and too many lives are being lost. Psychologists, counsellors, therapists and many other institutions have tools to help deal with depression before it consumes a person, but too few people seek help.
There are many reasons why they do not seek help, but we need to stop being too quick to condemn those suffering from depression. Sometimes yelling “Snap out of it!” simply pushes a person even further because they may feel they have lost a source of help in you.
A friend told me that at her office, 6 out of 15 people had confessed to going through some form of depression or the other, 4 of the 6 had attempted suicide due to depression and 1 had attempted it more than once! I listened to a guest on talk show host Noleen Maholwana-Sangqu’s show the other day talk about how her teenage son had committed suicide and she had since made it her mission to help others identify depression and deal with it before it drove the victim to suicide. It is a sad, sad situation for any family to find themselves in.
So my plea is that you take time out to talk to your family and friends, and if anyone is going through depression, help them get professional assistance in combating depression. There are people who are even afraid to seek help because they worry about what you, their family/friends will think of them. When we use words like stupid and selfish to describe the act of suicide after losing someone, we don’t realise the effect those words might have on someone else who might be going through their own pain.
We get so caught up in our own lives and our own challenges that sometimes it is hard to spare time or energy to reach out to someone else when we are dealing with our own pain. But you never know how much that hand you reach out could help, what difference it could make in someone’s life to know that even though they may not come to you, you are there for them.
Someone told me she knew her friend was going through depression, but because her friend was a high profile individual, she believed the friend had a handle on it. Sadly most of the victim’s friends felt the same way so no one reached out to her. When she committed suicide, there was much regret among her friends who had expectations of how she would handle it.
As I have stated, I am no expert on either depression or suicide, and I know there are so many factors to it and depression is one of the most complex conditions/illnesses to treat. But I also know that reaching out to someone might help, because I have been down that dark road of depression and if it wasn’t for the hands of family and friends reaching out to pull me out of it, who knows what would have happened? Some people were too busy to spend much time with me, but they would call or send me a message letting me know that they were thinking about me and that made such a difference for me.
Please don’t ignore signs of depression, whether in yourself or in someone close to you. If you are struggling with it, get help! If you can’t talk to people close to you, there are many helplines out there set up to help you or your loved ones who might be going through depression.
Clinics, churches, even some corporate organisations have someone available to help you. Whatever you do, do not ignore symptoms of depression, if you leave them they will grip you and you will be driven to believe that you are worthless, there is no point in carrying on and even believing that those you love will be better off without you.
Let’s deal with it and prevent so many sufferers from committing suicide. And please, be as patient and understanding as possible, it is not an easy thing to deal with and yes, sometimes you may feel like washing your hands clean of the sufferer, but your love and continued support could make a huge difference in your loved one’s life.
Be strong, even when all around you points to weakness. Hold on, even when everything tells you to let go.