Depression – Suicide is not the answer

Feeling down for a day or two is not depression. It is much more. Depression is like floating in a thick black fluid that threatens to drown you. Depression saps your strength and makes the world dark, even when the sun is shining. Depression can KILL you, because it is the most important cause of suicide.

That is why it is important to understand depression:

  • For yourself, so that you understand what is happening and don’t just give up.
  • For somebody you love, because without understanding and compassion, you can be hard and cruel to someone in need.

Depression is a sickness, not putting on or trying to get attention

Depression is a neurochemical imbalance in your brain. It is a medical condition that influences your body, mind and emotions. It is impossible to overcome serious depression by willpower alone. It is different from feeling dejected when things go wrong. Depression comes from inside, not from difficult external circumstances.

Understanding depression helps you to handle it

People try to help by giving advice like “Count your blessings”, or “Pull yourself together”. This only makes matters worse and shows a lack of understanding of what depression is. It is wrong to ask somebody to overcome an illness by willpower when that illness paralyses willpower.

Diagnosing depression

Depression must be distinguished from ordinary feelings of dejection or feeling down. Look at the following statements. If more than 5 are true for you, then you should consider asking help from a professional person like a doctor or psychologist.

  • The future seems dark to me.
  • I feel like a failure.
  • I don’t enjoy things like before.
  • I blame myself continually.
  • I feel guilty and deserving of punishment.
  • I find it difficult to make decisions.
  • Work and normal tasks takes extra effort.
  • My sleeping pattern is disturbed, I sleep to much and/or I have difficulty falling asleep.
  • I have lost interest in people.
  • I often think about death and would like to be dead.

Where does depression come from?

Hereditary factors are the most important. If somebody in your family suffers from depression, then you are at risk and should be attentive to symptoms in other family members. Women are more vulnerable. Almost 25% of women suffer from depression sometime during their life, which is more than double of the 12 % among men. Men, however, are more at risk for suicide because they don’t talk about it as easily and use more effective methods to kill themselves.

A big trauma can trigger depression in a person who is vulnerable. The loss of a loved one through death or the breaking up of a relationship is especially dangerous. Stress alone doesn’t cause depression because God has given us strength to handle difficult situations. Prolonged stress can, however, trigger underlying depression.

How can I help myself or somebody suffering from depression ?

  • Be attentive to yourself and the people around you. If you notice some of the symptoms mentioned above, talk about it. If you experience it yourself, don’t deny it.
  • Get professional help. Just as there is no shame in asking help for physical illness, there is none in getting help for emotional illnesses.
  • Talk to a psychologist, counsellor or pastor. To ask for help is a sign of wisdom and courage, not of weakness or lack of faith.
  • Use medication like antidepressants prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist and are not addictive. It can help raise you from the depth of depression to a level where you are capable of doing other things necessary for your mental health.
  • Know that God is close to you. Depression sometimes makes it difficult to feel God’s presence, and can even make you feel like walking away from God. God has special compassion for a person whose faith is affected by illness.
  • Talking about it can help with the healing process. Communication helps friends and supporters to understand you and gives insight into your situation.

Hold on to God’s promises and keep talking to Him in prayer

2 Kings 20:5 / Is.40:29 / Ps.30:12

When you are depressed, it feels as if your prayer is blocked by the ceiling, but these feelings are unreliable. God listens to and hears every word. If it becomes difficult to pray, read a prayer like Ps.42, or ask a friend to pray for you

Suicide?

To an ordinary, healthy person, suicide is unthinkable. It is difficult to understand why a loved one would choose to die instead of living with us.

Suicide scares and confuses people. People avoid talking about it and regard it as a disgrace that must be concealed from the world. But suicide is much too dangerous and heart wrenching to any family to avoid the topic. Suicide can kill a loved one if we don’t face it and talk about it.

How common is suicide?

Almost 8000 people commit suicide every year in South Africa, which makes it the third most common cause for death next to murder and road  accidents. For every death by suicide, there are 20 attempted suicides. One out of every 12 children at school has had a suicide attempt (Statistics: prof Lourens Schlebusch, University of Natal, 2005).

This danger has to be faced by every person.

How to understand suicide

God has given every person the energy and urge for life, especially to young people. Somebody who considers or commits suicide is mentally and emotionally seriously disturbed. These disturbed logic and mental processes, reverse normal arguments and makes the choice for death a logical and attractive solution. This mental imbalance is the decisive factor, not the circumstances, because healthy reasoning and emotions can handle extremely difficult circumstances.

How do you prevent suicide?

  • God has given us the responsibility to look after each other and to carry each other’s burdens (Gal.6:2). Every one of us must therefore be attentive to risky symptoms:
  • Depression is the single most important cause of disturbed thinking and emotions with suicide. If you see the symptoms of depression as listed above in a loved one, you must act. Talk about it and encourage the person to go for help.
  • A big loss may trigger depression and negative thoughts about the meaning of life, for instance death or loss of a loved one, or losing a job or other valued possessions.
  • The risk for suicide among men is 4 times bigger than among women, because men are less willing and able to talk about a problem or ask for help, and men use more effective methods in suicide.
  • If suicide is mentioned it should never be ignored or seen as manipulation or attention-seeking. 95% of people committing suicide have given fair warnings of their intentions. We must learn to listen.
  • Previous attempts are warnings. Don’t think that an unsuccessful attempt will keep someone from trying again. The danger becomes even bigger when somebody starts talking about the details of a suicide attempt.
  • The critical phase is when a person starts acting unnaturally calm and purposeful, which indicates a final decision that has been taken that is going to be executed.

Suicide can be prevented. Your love and understanding can be God’s way to save a life.

 

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