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September 2018

Thoughts about suicide.

I read a Facebook post the other day that, for the most part, was a long, rambling insult about how people judge others who have depression, that social media friends aren’t real friends (who knew), that they won’t read the post…blah, blah, blah.

It was long-winded, whiney and could easily have turned people off. I read it only because I was waiting to play my turn at online Scrabble. I’m glad I did though; at the very end of the post, was a point both salient and ironic.

It read:

Mental health awareness is urgently needed (suicide is at an all time high). Try to spare a little of your time with someone who may just want to talk. Talking can help us cope. Keeping things bottled up makes it worse. Most people will say, “If you need anything, I’ll be there to help you” but will they? Well, there’s coffee in the pot and beer in the fridge, and my door is open ALWAYS!

Salient – yes. Depression and suicide touch our lives directly and indirectly on a regular basis. It’s true that we need to better understand it. It’s also true that talking can help.

What I find ironic is that the person posting, and those in agreement, are some of the same people who deliberately avoid “negative” people and don’t want “drama”. They also shut out the news because it’s too depressing and, of course, negative. In other words, those same people who assume they’ll be there for someone who comes to their door with full-on depression shelter themselves from even reading about the struggles of people so far away they’ll never be imposed upon.

And, realistically, it is an imposition. It’s an honour to be trusted by someone vulnerable. But, it’s also an imposition. Depressed people can be depressing (go figure). They can be “negative”. They can be angry, hopeless and cynical. They can be a challenge to be around. Worse still, they don’t snap out of it after one “chat”. Depression and suicidal tendencies are a journey. They happen over time and take time to get over. Depression also ebbs and flows.

If you’re going to scold people on Facebook for not being real friends and if you’re going to imply that any one of those Facebook friends can count on you to be a real friend should they be suffering – and, if you’re going to suggest that more people need to be “aware” of depression – then you can’t be so naïve about the subject yourself.

Depression can be part of your biological makeup. It can be situational. It can be both. What it is not is an easy fix over a couple of coffees. It takes commitment on the part of friends and loved ones – and that’s hard.

I have a friend who was concerned about one of his tenants. He helped him get counselling and then he drove him to his appointments. He’d then wait for the appointment end and drive him back home. That’s commitment.

A client of mine had a friend who suffered a number of losses in a short period of time. Her friend went from being a happy person to an intense, overwhelmed and negative person. My client, who lived in a different city, said she spent one to two hours on the phone with her a few times a week. That’s commitment.

I’m not sure if everyone is truly cut out to say, “My door is always open” and mean it. I’m not suggesting that a conversation isn’t helpful. I am saying that if you make a big show of superiority on Facebook then you better be prepared to step up.

If you don’t have that kind of patience, then help out at a suicide prevention center. In other words, do something other than a Facebook repost that ends with a promise you can’t keep.

There, rant over. This blog may not have been about aging, but the older I get, the more discerning I am about people and the promises they make.

On a more important note, if you’re dealing with depression or with someone suffering from depression, I suggest you contact the mood disorders or mental health organization in your city to learn how best to handle this very delicate situation.