This place matters

This place matters

Monday, September 10, 2018

Do not go gentle - in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day

Today, social media is full of affirmations: stay strong and life is precious and never give up and all of that. Admonitions to check on your depressed friends abound. And though the sentiment is kind, platitudes don't do shit in the face of this disease. A text or a social media ping to your favorite depressive is kind, but hardly an adequate aid to someone facing down demons as vast and magnificent as those of depression; are whispers barely heard over the call of the void. 
One of my go-to depression songs, and
soundtrack for this post

I've spent more of my life desperately lashing myself to the mast of life with the siren songs of oblivion blasting through my brain than I like to think about. Spent so much of my life with thoughts of my death swarming through my head like the most intractable earworm. And so I can say, if you really want to help, if you really want to make a difference in the life of someone with a mental illness, here's what you can do.
Call us. Visit us. Invite us to spend time with you even if you know the answer will be no. 
Ask us when we see our therapist next. 
Offer to call and set up an appointment for us - sometimes the act of picking up a phone is to great a burden to bear. 
Ask us if we need help paying for our meds this month. 
Need a ride to the doctor. 
Need company in a waiting room. Leave a casserole on our porch even if we refuse to answer the door. 
Call us, even when you know we won't answer, and remind us why you're glad we're alive. Be specific. 
If you see us start to spiral, offer to breathe with us. Ask us whether we've worked out a crisis plan with our therapists, and help us walk through it. Gently ask if we need to go to the Emergency Room, and remind us there's no shame in it. 
Offer to come water our plants or walk the dog or watch the kids; the simplest tasks often feel impossible, and the piling up of things we can't do contributes to our anxiety and guilt and shame.

And, um, if you've got an opinion on "happy pills" and how we shouldn't depend on medicine and all of that, maybe keep it to yourself, like, all the time, not just around depressed people. That kind of talk gets under our skin and into the collective unconscious until it convinces people not to get the help they need. Convinces people on meds to go off them. 
Don't perpetuate the uninformed notion that all mental health professionals do is push drugs these days. Most therapists, the good ones, absolutely respect their clients' pharmacological decisions.
Stop using words like "loony bin" and "nut house" to refer to inpatient mental health services. The stigma associated with inpatient care leads so many to refuse it when they need it.
Stop using "get help" as an insult.
Stop calling suicide a selfish choice. Our mental illness bombards us with the message that our loved ones are so much better off without us, that suicide is the most unselfish choice. Don't make us feel guilty for thoughts we can't control.
Don't post scare-mongering news articles about the hidden dangers of anti-depressants. They're almost always inaccurate. Leave the weighing of the risks of treatment to the actual mental health professionals.
Be nice to people who are LGBTQ, even if you don't approve. Suicide rates are way higher among this population. 

Consider donating to the Suicide Prevention Hotline, check out MakeItOkay.org for more practical advice about helping people who need it. 

And, just, remind us that you love us. Be a broken record about it. It's not advice or social media posts we need; we need to know that we are capable of being loved.
My favorite platitude. 

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