Nobody knows the severity of your personal pain. Those who do not suffer know only that there is tomorrow if you claim it.
It is always dangerous to assume, despite best intentions, the mindset of one who admits they are prone to depression. They have suffered in silence, often deflecting unbearable levels of pain that would be near-impossible for an outsider to notice. For many sufferers, the winter holidays tend to most contend for their peace of mind, a two-month slog when feelings of loneliness and despair are at their zenith.
Why then are so many of us surprised when a person we know, even peripherally, grapples with thoughts of suicide during these winter months?
The signs may have been there all along.
Note to the Sufferer: If Capable, Inform Others What They Can Do To Help.
The following will address both those who suffer, and those who do not. I will preface my statement with a few acknowledgements:
- I was a special education teacher for ten years. My B.A. Degree is in Special Education, and my primary prerequisite course load was in Abnormal Psychology. My student population included autistic children and adults across the spectrum, gang kids, substance abusers and S.E.D. (classified as Severely Emotionally Disturbed).
- I have lost one relative and three students to suicide, and three friends to suicide or drug-related overdoses in which suicidal ideology was suspect.
- I have engaged in interpersonal relationships where the other person was diagnosed with depression or Bipolar disorder.
It is important to note that aside from my practical experience as listed above, I do not consider myself an “expert” in this issue under any circumstances, and I have no advanced degree in either Psychiatry or Psychology.
To the statement, however, of letting others know — if you can — what they can do to help, understand that many who do not suffer may indeed be able to lend a hand.
As an aside, allow me a moment to address those non-sufferers who are reading this:
- Regardless of your profession, or true area of expertise, appreciate that you walk a fine line when it comes to giving advice to someone suffering from either chemical or clinical depression. Sometimes, our most well-meaning words can do far more harm than good. We cannot understand the depressed mind if we ourselves are not depressed, but we can offer sensitivity and tools to help, such as links to relative stories or, in tougher circumstances, the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is incorporated at the end of this article.
- I’m a writer. I predominantly try to use my skills to do some good. A year or so ago, I wrote this article that I am including here as it may be of some comfort:
- Use your skills to do good, however, be prepared to walk away if asked. Avoid struggles.
- Never tell a sufferer to “snap out of it.” Most are incapable.
- If you know a sufferer who truly appears to be facing an endpoint, immediately contact a professional interventionist. Do not take matters into your own hand.
What Happens After The Holidays
This, my friends, is the true point of this article. What typically happens after the holidays … is a bandage. We must remain diligent throughout the year, and look out for each other before and after the winter months.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s tend only to punctuate thoughts and emotions related to being alone. But those thoughts are, most often, already there.
By presenting these points in this forum, I hope I’ve reached readers on both sides of the issue: those who may need help, and those who may be able to give help.
Of course, if we are able to effectively communicate and meet tomorrow together … we can help each other.
Thank you for reading.
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