Many years ago while I was working on my Master’s degree, I thought about becoming a licensed professional counselor. I really wanted to work with individuals with mental illness and depression. I started my coursework then decided on becoming a school counselor. My decision was based on family and economics at the time. I was a young mother and I knew that working long hours in another city would be tough. Working as an LPC in a rural South Texas community wasn’t going to be as secure as staying in education and spending time with my young daughters. I don’t regret my decision, but I realized early into my counseling career that mental illness was everywhere, including the school system. I became quickly immersed in issues involving domestic violence, child abuse, poverty, incarceration, death , divorce, and sexual abuse.
When you hear the following names: Robin Williams, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Mindy McReady you automatically think of Hollywood celebrities but you also think of suicide and depression. It’s sad to think that depression along with suicide makes national news when it is a celebrity. There is shock and sadness along with a toll free suicide hot line number after every news segment. Hey, I’m glad someone is sharing information on a national level but there are so many individuals who suffer depression or mental illness who can’t find their way out. Roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. You often hear of the number 22. Regardless of the number, we are experiencing a mental health crises in America. “On average, almost 3000 people commit suicide every day. Every 30 seconds, the loss of a person who killed themselves shatters the lives of family and friends.” (World Health Organization, 2007)
What can you do to help your loved one with depression?
- Educate yourself about mental illness and depression. Learn the facts on what it is and isn’t. Understand that mental illness can impact over 40 million adults in the United States. Research the symptoms or signs of depression.
- Empathize or put yourself in their shoes. There are so many misconceptions on depression.
- Take care of yourself as well. When someone you love is depressed, it can impact your well being.
- Be there for them. Listen to them. Help them understand that they are important in your life and are not to blame for the feelings they are experiencing. Make it a point to stress that they are not weak or worthless. Show them that you are there for them and will help them move through depression.
- Remember that depression doesn’t define the person. It isn’t indicative of who they are. Depression is an illness. Individuals experiencing depression may be angry with the fact that they recognize they are in a depressive state. Continue to provide love and support.
- Make sure that your loved one or friend is taking their medications. Medication is important to assist with depression.
- Love, love, love your loved one or friend. Remind them that there is hope and a new day is on the horizon.
- If your loved one is suicidal, seek immediate care. Call 911 and have professionals assist you.
These suggestions are but a few of the many things to do to support your loved ones with depression. Depression is real and just doesn’t go away. Time, support, medication and therapy can help individuals experiencing depression. The most important thing to do is BE THERE. Don’t allow your loved one to go through it alone. They need you to be strong for them.
Practice Makes Purpose!