At the time I’m posting this, September 10th , it’s World Suicide Prevention Day. Since I highly value mental health and there’s more to me than just pretty clothes, I figured this would be the perfect moment to share a little of my own story along with some warning signs to help others around you.
I’ve had a feeling of purposelessness and worthlessness since my teenage years and it got progressively worse, till I reached a breaking point about 2 years ago. As I mentioned in a previous post, my ‘problem’ consists of a mix of depression, anxiety and a disordered perfectionism. The build of constantly feeling anxious over everything – and I mean EVERYTHING from major life decisions to just a small thing as cooking food – combined with a never-ending feeling of failure together with the dulled emotions and inability to perceive joy got all too much that I eventually felt I was taking up space I didn’t deserve. I could carefully paint it of as ‘looking for a way out’, but that would only minimize the truth and I think today is the ideal day to come to full terms: I wanted to kill myself.
It sounds harsh as I write it down like that. But the truth shouldn’t be filtered. Someone in mental pain shouldn’t hide what they are going through to spare the ones around them. Unfortunately, that’s what they usually do, since the mental health stigma is still pretty much alive.
So here are a few signs to look for if you suspect a pressing mental health issue in a loved one or someone near you:
- feeling worthless and/or hopeless, feeling without purpose, low self-esteem
- loss of interests, pleasure, even appetite
- irritability, restlessness, looking agitated, anger outbursts
- withdrawing from social interactions (like gatherings with family/friends, lunching together with colleagues…)
- tired, needing much effort to get basic things (like washing & getting dressed) done
- changes in sleep: needing a lot of sleep or sleeplessness
- substance abuse (seeking comfort in alcohol or other drugs)
- impulsive and/or reckless behavior (this can go really wide from speeding & reckless car driving to going on spending sprees)
- self-harming behavior
- mentioning they are thinking of death, thinking of methods to kill themselves or wishing they weren’t born…
Now, what can you do when you’re worried about someone?
first of all: TALK!
This is the biggest problem of the stigma. But dare to talk! Approach the person you are concerned about and express your empathy and worries, encourage them to talk about how they feel.
Talking is one thing, but you’ll have to listen carefully as well. Not everyone will immediately open up and often, you’ll have to read between the lines and look for more signs. Assure the person you’re worried about that you will listen without judging.
I find this one is often overlooked or minimized. It’s so important that the person knows their feelings are valid and they have the right to feel this way and don’t need to hide it. Also, validate the person for daring to speak out to you, it’s a big deal that shouldn’t go unseen. This was and still is really important in my own case.
Speaking out to someone around them is a first step, but now encourage them to talk to a professional. Figure out together who they would feel comfortable with: their general practitioner, the work/school counselor, a social worker, a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Ensure a safe environment. This is again a broad term. If the person has showed intentions or behavior of self-harm and/or suicidal efforts, try to clear any dangerous items (the most obvious are sharp objects and meds). But being approachable is also part of a safe space: the person needs to know you will be there for them any time.
I hope you’ll never need these lists. But I hope you found this post informative, whether you are actually worried about someone near you or you just liked more info about the subject. These kind of post are little steps forward towards ending the stigma around mental health. Keep safe and remember you are loved and worthy of living! Mental health matters!