Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden
A bright and popular teen girl ended her own life. Within a few months, a younger teen boy from her area did the same. The town was in shock and a little clueless how to react when the girl who seemed to have everything died by suicide. After the boy died, mental health experts were called in and both community and school system started to learn about depression, suicide, and how to deal with each.
We do not have to wait until tragedy strikes.
The girl likely gave clear warning signs. I say “likely” because most teens who attempt suicide have spoken or behaved in ways that left clues and signals. We need to increase our literacy with regard to those signals and know what to listen for in those cries for help.
Knowledge saves lives
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states on a fund-raising site, “The best way to prevent suicide is through early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of depression and other mood disorders.”*
Early detection is bypassed in a social atmosphere of secrecy. By keeping mental health issues out of our conversations we inadvertently do not help, and often hurt those who struggle. Ignorance dwells in silence. Lack of knowledge propels misunderstanding.
When teens fear insult or rejection, or if their beliefs allow for internal condemnation, they will be slow to admit they are battling depression or suicidal thinking. Early diagnosis is missed and consequently treatment that would be effective 80-90% of the time!
Appropriate treatment, which can include medications and talk therapy, leads most people with depression to more happy and normal lives. Yet sadly, only half the teens with a mental illness receive treatment.**
We have to know what depression looks like. It is not safe to assume our knowledge is up-to-date.
Common symptoms of depression in teens
Not everyone experiences all these symptoms, and other symptoms not on this list may also occur. While each teenager is different, the following are so common in cases of depression they are used as tools for diagnosis.***
- Increase in irritability or anger, aggressiveness.
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed. Nothing seems fun anymore.
- Expressions of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair
- Easily triggered crying
- Declining grades and school performance. Can’t seem to concentrate.
- Expressing worthlessness, guilt, or feeling bad about themselves.
- Withdrawal from family, friends and relationships
- Lack of hygiene
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
It’s time to call in the experts. We have access to scholarly reports and numerous suicide prevention sites that describe depression and what to do if in a crisis. Therapists and other mental health professionals can answer questions about being supportive. It is up to us to seek information and prepare before it’s too late!
Let’s learn about this disease that overwhelms, and quash stigma with facts before it takes the life of one more of our children. Next, this Compassionate Love Blog will focus on what causes depression and suicide.
Comments are always welcome (see tab below). NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.