I’m seeing so many posts in my feed posting the suicide hotline and encouraging support for mental illness. I appreciate the sentiment.
I also see a complete misunderstanding of suicidal depression and mental health being propagated to the masses through the virality of a celebrity’s death.
This is the message I wish would go viral.
My father committed suicide when I was 9 years old. Interestingly enough, he also hung himself. Recently, I’ve experienced deep suicidal depression over a period of two years. Some call it The Dark Night of the Soul. I talked openly about my struggles online. I didn’t share that I was suicidally depressed, but I shared all of the reasons I was suicidally depressed. When I see these postings from friends it feels disingenuous and here’s why.
Not a single person I’ve seen share the hotline reached out to me during the time when I was experiencing depression. There were others who reached out and some who offered deep friendship and support during my time of need. And others who found reasons to judge me and some even chose to persecute me for my inability to continue serving their needs in a time when I had no choice but to serve my own.
This is simply to offer this… If you truly want to help someone the best thing you can do is notice the signs someone is depressed and step in to offer support before it becomes suicidal. And recognize the differences you’ll likely see when suicide creeps it’s way in. They are incredibly subtle.
Signs of depression that could help you know when someone could use your support:
- A desire to pull away from my friends, family and stop attending social events. I didn’t want to bring anyone down and simply couldn’t put on the mask of happiness. I was also terrified of #2 happening. If you notice someone isolating from friends and family they may be depressed.
- Tears finding their way into normal conversations. A simple statement or trigger could lead to uncontrollable crying. I had to walk away from many conversations to either prevent them from seeing my tears or hide my embarrassment that they had already come. If you notice someone burst into tears or be on the verge of tears during your conversations they may be depressed.
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. I am an early riser. I tend to get up at 5 AM naturally. When my dark thoughts were in the driver’s seat I had a hard time getting up as I simply wasn’t motivated to face the day. I dreaded it and would sometimes stay in bed all day unable to find the energy to pull myself together. If you notice someone coming online later than usual or struggling to get out of bed they may be depressed. This is important for significant others to take notice of.
- Uncontrollable crying when alone, especially in the shower. I would completely collapse into tears every time I took a shower, alone or not. It was as if the water would release all of my emotions at once. This would also happen when driving and if I went to the bathroom while out socializing. If you notice someone looks like they’ve been crying or are about to cry they may be depressed.
- Insomnia and middle of the night social media postings. My thoughts were driving and they seemed to never stop, so going to sleep and staying asleep were especially difficult. I would wake up between 1-3 AM or not be able to fall asleep until 3 AM. I had nothing to do so I would meditate and when that didn’t work I would look for motivational quotes and inspiration online. When I found something that helped I would share it on Facebook and Instagram. If you notice someone posting in the middle of the night who normally doesn’t and including inspirational messages they may be experiencing depression and trying to inspire and help themselves.
- Inability to focus and drive a project to completion. When depressed it was difficult enough to get out of bed. My ability to singularly focus on tasks or completing projects with many moving pieces would completely stall. I could manage small tasks, but my leadership skills and ability to see and plan for long-term visions would disappear. If you notice someone’s productivity and work performance decline they may be experiencing depression.
Now, the question is what do you do when you notice these signs. You’ll notice that some of these signs could just as equally mean you are enjoying your real life so much you aren’t online as much. And these are not all of the signs, they were mine. I hope by sharing my symptoms others will feel empowered to share theirs so we can fully support each other as a collective. We’re missing the boat on mental wellness and fitness.
Here’s the kind of help I would have been open to receiving that show you care without being intrusive.
- A call from a friend to catch up
- A day with my close female friends doing self-care, ie massages, a bathhouse, pedicures, float tank
- A session with an acupuncturist, energy medicine practitioner, massage therapist, shaman or other healer with a friend
- A walk, run or bike through nature with a friend. Anything outside that either allowed me to release the energy through physical fitness or to be chill with nature releases endorphins that help depression cycles end.
- A meditation with a sound healer or hypnotherapist focused on positive affirmations with a friend. A meditation with a friend at home is equally powerful.
- A yoga class focused on balancing yin and yang energy with a friend.
- Being fully witnessed in a sacred space created by my partner or a friend to share everything that’s happening, to share all the thoughts in my head while hugging me without trying to fix me.
At the point when I was suicidal I had full knowledge of the suicide hotline and access with how to find it. We live in the age of Google. It is important for many. For me, I was looking for connection to my human experience with the humans who claimed to love me.
What I wished I had were more friends who knew me well enough to recognize the signs and when they did would reach out with an experience that would give me hope, joy or release. To reach out to them felt impossible. To ask for help felt desperate.
What I wished for was a solution. When you’re in a place where you’ve decided you no longer want to live here in this planet of chaos, a close friend who is willing to hold space and witness you as you are is a true gift from the heavens. A close friend who reminds you how beautiful and important you are is priceless.
Nichole Kelly is the Chief Consciousness Officer at the Conscious Marketing Institute and co-host of the Conscious Marketing Podcast. She is best known for her book How to Measure Social Media and her supporting work in setting industry standards for how return on investment (ROI) from digital marketing is measured and valued within organizations.