This can be a difficult time of year for people and college students in particular. Final exams are looming, along with final papers and projects. It is time to think about enrolling and paying for next semester. Students are getting ready to go home and sometimes that transition back home isn’t smooth and easy. The students have changed by being at college, and their family has been changed by the students absence. Living together again can sometimes be difficult. And the holidays bring their own “special” set of stresses to life- parties, family get togethers and sometimes unrealistic expectations.
Consider these facts from Emory University:
- Every year, 864,950 people attempt suicide, which means 1 person attempts suicide every 38 seconds.
- Each year, 34,598 people die by suicide, an average of 94 completed suicides every day.
- There are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses per year.
- One in 10 college students has made a plan for suicide.
- Suicidal thoughts, making plans for suicide, and suicide attempt are higher among adults aged 18 to 25 than among adults over the age of 26.
- Lifetime thoughts of attempting suicide are reported to occur among 5 percent of graduate students and 18 percent of undergraduates.
- Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 25 to 34 and the third-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24.
Depression is a major cause of suicide. Again statistics from Emory;
- Depression is a common mental health disorder, with the 18.8 million Americans suffering from depression every year. In addition to being common, depression is a risk factor for suicide.
- Two-thirds of people that die by suicide are depressed at the time of their death.
- Among those that have major depression, the risk of death by suicide is 20 times greater than those that are not depressed.
- Treatment for depression is very effective; however, less than 25 percent of people with depression receive adequate care.
- Unwillingness to seek help is another risk factor for suicide.
How do you know if someone is depressed?
Here are some signs from the Mayo Clinic.
Depression symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
- Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Reduced sex drive
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Changes in appetite — depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration
- Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things aren’t going right
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
- Crying spells for no apparent reason
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it’s obvious something isn’t right. Other people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.
Depression affects each person in different ways, so symptoms caused by depression vary from person to person. Inherited traits, age, gender and cultural background all play a role in how depression may affect you.
Depression is a “real” disease. It’s causes are chemical, genetic and environmental. People don’t “snap out” of depression any more than they can “snap out” of being diabetic.
The Mayo Clinic has a good, understandable and helpful discussion of depression, its causes, symptoms and treatment. Please take the time to visit their site, here.
I’m not a therapist. I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m not a specialist in mental health issues, but I do know this:
Please don’t be afraid to talk to someone if you think you are depressed. And if you think a friend or family member may be depressed – talk to them. It may feel awkward to talk about, but it is vital that you set your personal comfort aside and talk about it.
People who are depressed may not have the energy or ability to do things that seem simple to those of us who are not depressed. Making an appointment to see a therapist may be too much to do. Physically getting to the appointment may be too difficult. Be prepared and willing to make the call for the depressed person. Be prepared and willing take them to the appointment. If you are unable to do this, find someone who can.
What if someone is suicidal? This is a scary situation. But again, please don’t let your discomfort stand in the way of helping someone.
From the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, here are some warning signs:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
Here is some advice from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline about what to do:
- Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
- Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
- Don’t dare him or her to do it.
- Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
- Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
- Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
It is not easy to ask someone if they are thinking about killing themselves. It is awkward and frightening. But please ask. Again, you may need to make the phone call to a suicide hot line or your local hospital. You may need to take the person to the hospital.
If the person is already seeing a therapist or counselor, contact them. They can help the person get the help they need. If you don’t think the person can wait to see their therapist or is in imminent danger, take them to a hospital or call 911.
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. You will be able to talk to a trained counselor in your area who can help you figure out what to do and where to go for help. I suggest you put this number in your cell phone. I have.
There are many good mental health resources available on the web. Here are some I use.
Half of Us A resource for college/young adults
The Transition Year: A resource for college students and their parents
The Mayo Clinic: Information about depression and other mental illnesses
The National Institute of Mental Health: Information about mental illness
I hope you never need to use this information. But if the statistics from Emory are true, there is a good chance that you or someone you care about will be affected by depression or another mental illness. Knowledge is power. Knowledge saves lives.
A blessed and healthy Advent to you and all whom you love…