Help and hope
It wasn’t the hopelessness in her friend’s gaze as they locked eyes, or the look of horror on her 14-year-old friend’s face before she took a step off a roof top that would silence her forever that still haunts Aleacha Sweeting many years after the suicide of her best friend. She says the knowledge that she could have done more to help her friend is what really eats away at her, 20 years after she saw her friend take her own life.
Sweeting recalls her friend confiding in her over many months before the tragic day about how depressed she was and of the hopelessness she felt about life. She remembers her friend sharing thoughts about ending her life to do away with the mixed feelings and guilt she’d been having. At the time, Sweeting, only a teenager herself, says she encouraged her friend not to act rashly, but she regrets never taking any steps to inform an adult or a qualified professional about how her friend had been feeling, because it was supposed to be a secret confidence.
Years after one step off a roof ended her friend’s life, the memory still lingers according to Sweeting who says she watched her friend step off the roof, as two frantic police officers took her to the scene where her friend was standing precariously on the edge, threatening to jump. The friend had told persons trying to convince her to come down that the only way to stop her was to bring her best friend to her. The police went to get Sweeting who watched in horror as her friend took the fateful step of the roof. To this day, Sweeting agonizes over wishing that there had been more help options available and of wishing that she had known how to help her friend, she would have made it through her depression.
Over the course of the past two years suicide has been pushed into the spotlight as a number of persons have opted to deliberately end their own life rather than face whatever problems threw their lives into turmoil. There were also reports of a number of attempted suicides as well.
Suicidal behaviors often occur in response to a situation tha the person views as overwhelming, such as social isolation, death of a loved one, emotional trauma, serious physical illness, aging, unemployment or financial problems, guilty feelings or dependence on alcohol or other drug.
Mental disorder professionals, something is going wrong below the surface of society. During this time of economic depression–jobs are easily lost and hard to find, crime is increasing, dysfunction in the home is growing and hope seems to be diminishing, they say many people are finding themselves in a more depressed state that specialists believe is leading to more para-suicides–attempts that aren’t really thought out because they are done to grab attention than to commit the act of attempted suicides and complete suicides.
Registrar psychiatrist at the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, Dr. Kirk Christie says persons who are feeling overwhelmed and depressed have many more options available to them, and that dealing with persons with depression no longer has to be reactive or something unfortunate that just happens.
“There is much more that people can do to help one another so that we can have a more proactive approach in dealing with the depression laced in society especially during these times,”said Dr. Christie.
SUICIDE DOES NOT
HAVE TO HAPPEN
“Suicide is something that does not have to happen. Many times it happens because the person did not have someone qualified to talk to. They may talk to their friend or someone if they feel like, but what they say is rarely taken seriously and many times family members don’t even know how to react or what advice or help to give. They overlook it and don’t see the signs. In many other cases, people don’t even share their feelings so you don’t even know that they are not doing alright. They may show other signs, but because people in general don’t know what to look for they don’t get alarmed or insist that the person get the proper help they need by visiting a psychiatrist, a counsellor, a psychologist or even their priest,” said Dr. Christie.
SIGNS LOOK OUT FOR
According to Dr. Christie, some signs that someone you know has major depressive disorder or depression would be indicated if he suddenly loses interest in pleasurable events he/she used to enjoy or has a consistent depressed mood that does not lift for two weeks. The medical professional says the person may also display four out of the following secondary symptoms–irritability, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia(inability to sleep)or hypersomnia(too much sleep), fatigue and loss of energy, consistent feelings of guilt, an inability to concentrate and an obsession, imagining or unreasonable fear of death. He says while you may notice any of the symptoms in a family member of friend, Dr. Christie says it is still necessary for a specialist to properly evaluate and diagnose the person.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
“In the meantime what you can do as a concerned loved one is to always be supportive of the person. Be empathetic and always encourage[them]in what they want to do. Let them know that you care and will listen to them if they need it. Don’t be patronizing, pushy or impatient because it can worsen the situation. Encourage them to see a psychiatrist or another mental disorder specialist–especially if you see their symptoms worsening so that they can get the help they need. Half the cases of depression are not reported because many people just don’t go to see a professional.”
WHO IS SUSCEPTIBLE
The psychiatrist says while many people become depressed due to circumstances such as death or unemployment there are other groups of people who are more predisposed to depression than others. One group includes persons who have one or both parents who suffer from the disorder. If it is one parent they are twice as likely and if it is both parents, he says it becomes four times as likely to develop than a person with unaffected parents.
He also said that children growing up in physically and emotionally abusive homes also tend to suffer highly from depression. According to the doctor, older persons going into retirement or who are losing their faculties with time also go through a prolonged period where they question their worth–whether they have fulfilled their life’s goals and they begin to wonder if there is a future left for them now that more and more of their life is being disrupted and changed.
NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY
“Depression is not something to take lightly”says Dr. Christie.”According to American statistics, which The Bahamas closely mirrors, every one in 100 males suffer from depression compared to every three in 100 females who suffer from this disorder. If you feel like you are overwhelmed, do not hesitate to seek help be it talking to someone or seeking proper attention. Do not just wallow in whatever you are feeling especially if the feelings last for more than two weeks. There is much you can do just make a choice to do it,” he said.