Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Suicide and Depression

We lost another one.  Last week a high school boy from my youngest daughter's Alma Mater killed himself.  He had everything to live for.  His life was all ahead of him.  He wasn't old enough to know about all the potentials, all the possibilities.

I say, "WE" lost him because each unnecessary death from suicide is a HUGE loss for our world.  Who knows what potential this young man would reach?  Perhaps he could have invented the next great thing that made this planet better.  Or maybe he would simply be a kind decent man who blessed everyone that he came in contact with.

Why?  Why are so many young men and women killing themselves?  We know more about the human brain now than we did when I was young.  Yet it seems like the more we learn the more questions are raised.  Why does suicide seem so much more common now then when I was young?  What can we do to prevent our children from killing themselves?  Is clinical depression caused by the pollution in our world, poor nutrition, too much sugar?  Is it an environmental thing, or a birth defect?

The problem with most of these questions is that the answer is, "We just don't know."  That answer is so frustrating.  Yet maybe changing the question can empower our world again.  Instead of asking all the "WHY" questions we can ask the "HOW" question.

How can I safeguard my children?  How can I watch for signs of suicidal or homocidal ideations in my child, spouse, parent, friend, or other family member.  If I see signs of abuse in my neighbors children, or clinical depression what should I do?  How involved should I get?  How do I bear living now that my child and all his potential are gone?  How do I bear living since my Father or Mother killed themselves? 

I didn't say the "HOW," questions were easy.  They aren't.  Yet it's the "HOW" that help us do more than just merely survive, clinging to life by our bare fingertips, or hiding in our bedrooms in our pajamas...unable to even get up and get dressed.  "HOW" can be a stepping stone on the path to prevention or healing.

I repeat this idea multiple times.  I want the entire world to hear these important words.  Clinical depression IS NOT THE SAME as discouragement.  Discouragement CAN lead to suicide but it is much less frequent.  Discouragement is reflected by the circumstances in a persons life.  So a high school student tries out for the student play and is not cast.  That is discouraging.  An adult is "let go" as a result of downsizing from a job where they have worked for 30 years.  That is discouraging.  The mood reflects the circumstance.

Clinical depression is a very different beast.  Oh people in bad circumstances can develop clinical depression, but generally speaking clinical depression is not necessarily reflective of life circumstance.  Think of Marilyn Monroe.  The woman was beautiful, rich, men were all mad for her, she could have and do anything she wanted, and she battled constantly with clinical depression.  In her case it was probably hereditary because her Mother battled the condition all of her life.

If you notice your child sleeping more often, or not at all...if they show signs of not eating, or eating constantly, if they start listening to disturbing music (no parents, not all modern music is the equivalent of disturbing), I'm talking about songs with lyrics about death and destruction.  These are some of the signs to look for.  It's especially tough to detect clinical depression in teens because they are by nature more inclined to tell everything to their peer group and less inclined to share with their parents.  I have heard that this is evolution's way of helping youth become independent adults.  Whatever the case it is VERY frustrating.

I guess the summary of the above paragraph is educate yourself.  Look for the signs.  Many of the signs of clinical depression are the exact same signs of drug use or sexual promiscuity.  The thing is that drug use or promiscuity CAN lead to suicide or homocide.

One of the most important things I can say is GET PROFESSIONAL HELP, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP!  At some point in life we all need help.  There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about this fact!  If you are an adult battling suicidal ideations there are organizations that meet daily, several times a week, and at different hours in the day.  Speak to a church leader, ask for referrals, Google them....get help.

See a professional.  This is the challenging part...getting to a clinician that actually helps.  Unfortunately there are those unfortunate practitioners that should not be allowed to be therapists.  Some have a "One size fits all mentality."  I went to one during a particularly difficult point in my life.  She started explaining to me "Humor therapy."  I said, "My husband and I could teach that class.  That is one coping skill that we have well learned."

Obviously disappointed the woman put down the book and we just chatted, simple small talk the rest of the time.  (There seemed to be no back up plan).  I came back the next week and out came the same book, and the same ideas.  This time I was too tired and disappointed to remind her that we had been down this disappointing path before.  I was much younger then (I actually paid for those appointments.  Now I would have complained and at least gotten a discount.)

Go to a therapist with the knowledge that you may need to see one, or two before you find a good match for your personality, and lifestyle.  Do NOT stay with a poor clinician.  After all, would you take your car for repair at a boat shop?  They both have engines, and similar materials construct their bodies but unless you drive "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," the repairs would be far less than satisfactory.

A Psychiatrist is a mental health professional who strictly prescribes medications designed to treat mental health issues.  A therapist, psychologist, or counselor does different types of behavioral therapy.

There is one clinician that I have watched with great respect.  His name is Daniel Amen.  He treats "mental illness," differently than any other clinician I have researched.  He actually has a scan done of the brain while it is active.  Then he maps out the chemical activity of the brain and treats mental illness from a clinical empirical diagnosis.  There is no, "Um, well this medication works well for this type of situation, I don't know if it will work for you, but let's try it."  He makes no snap judgments.  The patient goes through an extremely intensive intake interview, sometimes three days long.  Then they scan the brain and then depending on all that criteria, Dr. Amen makes a diagnosis.  I hope that I will live to see his brilliant methods become more mainstream...meaning paid for by insurance.

Well this has been one of my long rants.  I feel so very strongly about this topic.  Imagine if just one of those that kill themselves were saved.  When my beloved nephew killed himself I couldn't believe it.  He was very good at masking his symptoms.  Nobody knew how bad the thoughts had become for him.  He is missed greatly.  We will always miss him.  His one year old daughter will not remember Daddy. 

One thing I want anyone reading this to remember.  In studies done of patients who tried to kill themselves and then lived the most common statement was, "As soon as I began the process of killing myself I realized I was dealing with a TEMPORARY problem in an extremely PERMANENT manner."

Last story.  I read about the life of a young wannabe actress in Hollywood.  She spent several years trying to break into Hollywood.  She pounded the pavement, went to interview, after interview.  Finally in a grand dramatic gesture she threw herself off the Hollywood sign and died.  The next day the letter came in the mail telling her that she had been cast in an amazing part in an amazing movie.  It would definitely have allowed her to break into Hollywood.  ONE DAY!  Life is filled with twists, turns, trouble, and trial.  Yet it is also filled with joy, wonderment, beauty, and love.  Let's reach out to those that need help...we never know when it might be our turn to need help.


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