Often those who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts do so in private and fake their happiness to the rest of the world. They struggle internally with their thoughts, and may not let those around them know of their struggle.
This can be dangerous as their family and friends do not readily recognize the shift in mood or the intent to harm themselves until it is too late. In light of the recent unfortunate passing of actor, Robin Williams, here are some suggestions for helping those in need.
1) Know your resources. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day. Please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org for more information or someone to talk to.
If you are concerned about someone’s (or your own) suicidal behavior or you're concerned that someone may intend to harm themselves, call 911 immediately and let the emergency medical teams take that person to the nearest hospital for help and support.
2) Depression can come in many forms. It can be a result of something major such as a trauma, bullying, life event, having had a baby, relationship issues, stress, or death. However sometimes there is no real reason and people will just report feeling down, blue or sad.
Do not assume that because someone appears to have a great life, great kids, a great job or a great marriage that they are not depressed. Depression occurs in men and women of all ages and all races.
3) Help can be found through counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, primary care providers, and group sessions. There are also medication options for those who need it. Not all medication has to necessarily be a permanent lifelong thing and should not be avoided for fear of a stigma. If you or someone you know needs help -- get help and use it.
4) Don’t be afraid to ask the heavy questions. Ask someone if they feel depressed or anxious. Ask if they are sad or blue or feel overwhelmed. Ask how they are coping. Ask if they are suicidal. Ask if they have a suicide plan or a timeline.
You will not know if you do not ask. Then listen and do not judge, joke, poke fun, be rude, or minimize it.
Be proactive. If someone tells you they are depressed to the point they feel like ending their life or have considered suicide, they need and deserve help. Do not keep the secret to yourself and do not be afraid to call 911 or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
5) Recognize the symptoms of depression – Sadness, weepiness, withdrawal, not enjoying life or things they once enjoyed, may indicate that someone is depressed. Eating for depression or not eating for depression, being less active in hobbies, can be warning signs.
Do they seem overwhelmed? Are they sleeping more or not able to sleep? Are they anxious, less outgoing, more angry and irritable?
6) Remember, too, that not all who are depressed are also suicidal.
As 1 in 10 American adults report some form of depression, it is important for friends and family to understand that there is support available but you have to reach out and help them get it.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). An Estimated 1 in 10 Adults Report Depression.
Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Web. 11 August, 2014. Retrieved from
Reviewed August 13, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith