It hit the news yesterday that Anthony Bourdain, a high profile celebrity has died, from apparent suicide. Alongside this, a video has been shared recently showing Linkin Park singer, laughing, hours before his suicide. This made me want to talk about the faces of Depression, Suicide and the Yogi teabag culture.
In the world approximately 300 million people are suffering from depression. This is a staggering number of people. But in my experience I’ve found depression one of the most over used words when someone has a low mood. The actual symptoms of depression cover more than just a low mood, for example a loss of interest in activities, impacts in cognitive functioning, in addition to physical changes to sleep patterns and weight (to name but a few potential symptoms). To me this brings in the complications of the Yogi Tea culture. When I talk about this culture, this where well meaning people assume when someone is suffering with depression, that a simple phrase of ‘You deserve to be loved’ along with a pat on the back will ‘fix’ them. And if that doesn’t work, well then obviously the person suffering with depression isn’t ‘trying’ hard enough.
I’ve watched people I’m extremely close to battle with depression for years. There is no magic pill to fix depression. You could argue that anti- depressants do the trick (but I’ve seen cases and cases where this doesn’t work in the long term). These can be a wonderful sticky plaster for a period of time, but the under lying issues that have led to the depression still need to be dealt with. And as Chester Bennington (Linkin Park lead singer) showed, depression has a number of faces, shame, humiliation, guilt, fear of judgement etc. All of which can lead people to hide about what’s going on underneath the surface. It can take a leap of faith for someone with depression to talk to someone about how they’re feeling.
If someone has never struggled with a serious mental illness, it can be difficult to know how to help when someone calls out for help. I just want to call out a few things you really should not say, that I’ve unfortunately experienced:
- You shouldn’t tell anyone you feel suicidal, it just makes them feel bad
- You’re just being lazy, get out of bed
- You just need to stop feeling sorry for yourself
- Everyone has bad days, it’s just what life is
- You should just be grateful to be alive, so many people have it so much worse than you
So how do you avoid being a ‘Yogi Teabagger’ if someone has the courage to talk to you about their depression? The first thing you can do is listen. The chance is that a 5 minute piece of advice won’t ‘fix’ them, so try not to draw comparisons for them to follow. Advise them to seek out the relevant mental health group for help (for example the Samaritans) or their doctor. And in seeking any treatment for depression, I’d always recommend looking to leverage counselling to help to treat the under lying cause of it.
And if they’re feeling suicidal? Look at helping them with emergency care if it seems like they might be immediately at risk. Again, the Samaritans is a great place to get initial advice on this!
If you have any other good and bad advice for depression, I’d love to hear them!