Roughly 65,000 people each year will try to commit suicide in Australia alone, of those, about 2,200 of those succeed.
Think about that for a while.
It horrifies and saddens me that so many people in our country feel so alone, so locked into their situation that they believe there is no other way out. Seriously, 65000 reported suicide attempts, not to mention there would be almost twice that figure that would go unreported. Depression and other mental illnesses are the most common causes for youth suicide. It is estimated that one in five Australians aged 18 years and over will experience some kind of mental illness, yet two thirds of those people will never seek help.
When did we become so isolated that over 65000 people felt that they have no one to turn to?
In my life I have both seen what it’s like to live with someone with depression and also suffered from it myself. When I was in year nine, my mother would spend every second that she wasn’t working or caring for my bother and I, laying in bed, tears rolling down her face, staring at the same spot on the blank wall. I never understood it. Weeks later I came home and my mother wasn’t there, but my auntie was. She informed me that my mother was suffering from depression and was so close to the edge that she was admitted into hospital. To be completely honest, I still didn’t understand. I am ashamed to say that I still had the childish opinion of “why can’t you just cheer up”. Mum got out of the hospital 3 weeks later, but nothing had really changed, other than now she was on a lot of medication. She went for a few months of seeming fine, until again she ended up back in hospital. Over the next two years she was admitted into hospital more than five times.
The thing I’m trying to show is that I of all people know how hard it is to deal with some one in your life having depression, how it feels to be completely powerless to help them. It is not an easy thing to deal with and there is no quick fix.
“It (depression) feels like being in a dark hole, and not being able to get out. You can see the light far away, with no way of getting to it. I am not
worth anything nor worthy of anyone”
According to the World Health Organisation, 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression, yet it is still not something we talk about, something we don’t as yet know how to talk about. Seriously, how would you react when faced with having friends or family open up to you about depression and suicidal thoughts? Would you know what to say? In a study done by Pfizer Australia, when asked what actions they would take if they knew a friend or family member was suffering with depression, one in three said they would encourage them to put on a brave face and push on. Is that really what we should be telling our friends?
The thing is; depression is not something you can “just get over”. It is a real medical problem. Dr Grace Groom says "Asking a depressed person to cheer up or focus on the positive things in life is not helpful. It minimises and undermines that person's illness by suggesting it is easily overcome and not a serious condition that requires professional treatment."
Depression and suicide prevention is one of my main passions. There are a couple of organisations that I strongly support because of that passion. The first one being ‘To Write Love On Her Arms’.
To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery. I encourage you to read the TWLOHA vision which I have posted in an earlier blog.
Do you have the courage to come along side someone who’s hurting? Are you able to ask someone how they are, and actually mean it?
"Strategies for helping people with depression are to listen and be supportive, include them in social events and to suggest they seek professional advice with family doctors the first point-of-contact." - Dr Grace Groom.
You can help be the difference. You can help break the isolation.
You can help save a life.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)