Mental Health, Depression, and Suicide
This week, two iconic people took their lives by committing suicide. Though I didn’t follow either of them, the fact that they were mega-starts in their respective fields has really struck me. These two people, Kate Spade (fashion) and Anthony Bourdain (food and travel), had money, fame, and they were both “at the top” of their industries. But the reality is that they both still suffered. They had the finest things this life had to offer, and they both still felt like taking their own lives was the most viable option for them to escape. This is why we need to have more discussions about Mental Health, Depression, and Suicide. This is why we need to open our own minds and hearts not only to physical illnesses, but to mental and emotional illnesses as well.
While thinking about what these suicides mean for them, their family & friends, and to me personally, I came up with 5 realizations:
- Depression and Suicide know no boundaries
- People wear their masks really well
- We, as a society, need to plug into one another more and get reacquainted on a more personal level
- We should all be aware of the suicide prevention hotline contact info
- Sometimes knowing suicide prevention contact info isn’t as important as making a real connection with the person/people around you.
Igbo / Yoruba Proverb – It Takes a Village…
There is an African Proverb that says, “It takes a Village to Raise a Child.” Usually when we hear that phrase, we think of how many resources and community members it takes to have children grow up in safe, happy, healthy homes and become flourishing members of society. But I think that is only part of the story.
I believe that it takes a village to help ALL the members of that village become the best versions of themselves. In order to become happy, health, flourishing parts of society, it takes the entire community to chip in and support. In order to keep all of our loved ones from feeling so low that they think the only viable option they have for relief is to end it all, is a community effort. Now, I’m not saying that we bear the blame for the choices that other people make [I would never tell you that because I know first hand how horrible that feels. And it’s not fair to any of you!]. What I AM saying is that many times the people that take their own lives feel so disconnected and helpless that they don’t feel that anyone is there for them or can help them. In that regard, we as a society can do better.
Her are 9 ways that each of us can help build a stronger community so that the people that are anxious, depressed or suicidal can possibly feel more connected to the community around them.
- Talk to People: at least a few times a week, preferably daily, try to pick up the phone and have an actual conversation! Not just with your closest friends and family members. Have a conversation with that long lost cousin. Speak to that former colleague that you used to have lunch with. Reach out to that former teacher/student/acquaintance. Say hello to that elder that used to live down the street from you and make those pies. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but just reaching out can let them know that you care. Pick up the phone and have an actual conversation with them. Hear their voice and let them hear yours.
- Visit One Another: Talking on the phone is great, but every now and again we need to step it up a notch and make a face-to-face appearance in someone else’s life. Invite them out for coffee or tea. Invite them over for family dinner. Go visit them on your way to the store. Invite them on a morning walk through the park. Or just drop by and say hello. It really doesn’t take much to BEGIN to (re)build a connection to another person.
- Pay Attention / Don’t Be Distracted: With so many images and messages, notifications and comments, friend requests and page likes coming at us at all times, we’re beginning to lose the ability to focus. Our attention spans are shortening and it won’t change until we do something about it. What can we do? Well, I’m glad you asked! For starters, we can begin to reverse this trend when we are having a conversation with a friend or colleague. While talking to them, don’t divide your attention. Look them in the eyes. Listen to their words. Watch their facial expression and body language. Don’t check your watch. Don’t look at your phone (as a matter of fact, turn it OFF!) Try not to get distracted so they know that all of you is there, and they have your full attention. This will help them AND you!
- Don’t Dismiss Someone Else’s Struggles: Just because you haven’t had the same experiences doesn’t mean that they are not having them. As humans, we tend to relate to others according to our own experiences. That’s called sympathy. Sympathy is fantastic, except when we haven’t had those particular experiences and don’t even attempt to relate to what THEY are going through despite our own lack of experience in that area.
- Have EMPATHY: empathy is when you haven’t personally had an experience yourself, but you can still connect with someone else’s struggles. At minimum, you make a strong effort to “walk a mile in their shoes” to try to understand what another person is going through. And you do this without dismissing their feelings and experiences simply because you haven’t personally had them.
- Don’t Feed Into The Mental Health Stigma: We live in a society that makes it really hard for people with Mental Health Problems to come forward, tell their story, and feel safe enough to seek the help they need. I recently read a report that talked about how high depression and suicide are amongst physicians, partly because they don’t feel safe enough to go seek the health that they would prescribe to their patients! That is the burden of all of us. Collectively, we need to stop making others feel as though their mental health problems are less important and not worth of the same level of love, respect and care as every other disease (example: diabetes, cancer, etc).
- Get Into Nature: All of us, not just those with diagnosed mental health disease, need to reconnect with the earth around us. There is lots of research that talks about the positive affect that nature, water, and plants have on human health, emotions and well-being. The bottom line is that reconnecting with nature, free from distractions, does some really good things for you and your overall level of health. Some ways that you can connect are as follows: Sit in the grass. Put your bare feet on the ground. Re-pot and water a plant. Play in the ocean. Sit under a tree. There are a number of ways that we can do it, we just need to step out of our daily routine and step into nature for a few moments.
- Check Your Own Internal Conversation: Most of us talk REALLY bad to ourselves. If we paid attention to all the self talk and internal dialogues we had over the course of the day, we would see that it is self-destructive and negative. If someone around you talked to you on a regular basis with the SAME words that you talk to you, would you still want to be friends with them? Would that be a person that you’d want to keep around? Think about it!
- Focus on Right NOW!! Oftentimes, these feelings of anxiety and depression are caused by us looking too far into the future or too deep into the past. We are saddened by the choices we made or that were made for us. We are overwhelmed at the number of tasks that must be done or the amount of resources it will take to get them done. We begin to feel helpless because of the things that we have no control over. Let’s begin to get out of our head and revel in the present moment. Allow your body and mind to relax and sink into THIS moment right here and right now. The present is all you really have right now, so what are some ways you can enjoy life right this moment?
I know that this list is not exhaustive by any means. These are just a few simple steps that each of us can take every day to help bring all of us together as a community.
I hope this helps you. I hope it helps your community. My desire is that we will begin to hear less stories about our friends and loved ones taking their own lives. I want the root cause of their depression/anxiety/mental health disease to actually be worked on and healed. We all deserve love, happiness and to feel heard.