#1 - EDUCATE YOURSELF ON DEPRESSION

Q. What is depression?

Depression is an illness, just like cancer or diabetes. It is not the "blues". The "blues" are normal feelings that eventually pass. The feelings associated with depression last longer than a couple of weeks, and no matter how hard a person tries to talk him/herself into feeling better, it just doesn't work. It isn't a personal weakness or a character flaw. Depression is a no-fault, "total-body" illness that affects a person's thoughts, feelings, behavior, physical health and appearance, and all areas of a person's life - home, work, school and social life.

Q. What causes depression?

Depression seems to be triggered by a complex combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. The brain is an organ of the body just like the heart, liver and kidneys. If the chemicals in the brain, that regulate how a person thinks, feels and acts, get out of balance or get disrupted in some way, the brain can get "sick" - the result can be depression. Bad or stressful life experiences can trigger depression, but it can also appear out of nowhere, when everything is going fine - at a time when there would be no reason for a person to feel "depressed". IT IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF!

Q. Who can get depression?

Anyone can suffer from depression. People of all ages can get depression - even children. It doesn't matter what race, religion, ethnicity or economic group a person comes from. Depression affects more than 15 million North Americans each year.

Q. Why is it important for friends and family to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression?

The person suffering from depression may not know he/she has depression or that help is available. Depression affects thinking - a person may not be able to think clearly or rationally, or may believe that he/she can't be helped. If the depression is severe, it can cause thoughts of hopelessness and helplessness. Researchers know that the #1 cause of suicide is untreated depression. That's where being a friend becomes very important - you may need to step in and get your friend or friends the help they need.

#2 - KNOW THE SYMPTOMS

Notice if a friend or friends with any of these symptoms persist longer than two weeks.

  • Do they express feelings of: Sadness or "emptiness"? Hopelessness, pessimism or guilt? Helplessness or worthlessness?
  • Do they seem: Unable to make decisions? Unable to concentrate or remember? To have lost interest or pleasure in ordinary activities - like sports or band or talking on the phone? To have more problems with school and family?
  • Do they complain of: Loss of energy and drive - seem "slowed" down? Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up? Appetite problems - losing or gaining weight? Headaches, stomach aches or backaches? Pain in arms or legs?
  • Has their behavior changed suddenly so that: They are restless or more irritable? They want to be alone most of the time? They've started cutting classes or dropped hobbies and activities? You think they may be drinking heavily or taking drugs?
  • Have they talked about: Death? Suicide - or have they attempted suicide?

Always remember - 80 to 90 percent of people with depression can be helped! They can feel good again!

#3 - FIND SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP

Parents/Responsible Adult School Psychologist/Social Worker/Counselor Teacher Doctor/Nurse Personal Clergy Yellow Pages of Phone Book - Mental Health Services, Suicide Prevention

Q. How is depression treated?

There are various ways of treating depression. Symptoms can be relieved with "talk therapy", called psychotherapy, with special medicines, called antidepressant medications, or with a combination of both. The main thing to remember is that depression is an illness that requires professional treatment, just as if a person had diabetes or cancer or pneumonia - all require immediate medical attention! Depression is no different.

#4 - KNOW WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT A FRIEND MAY BE SUICIDAL

There is a link between depression and suicide. Every year in this country, over 2,000 teenagers die of suicide. The statement, "People who talk about suicide, won't complete suicide," is false! If your friend makes comments like, "I wish I were dead," or "It doesn't matter. I won't be around much longer," or "Everyone would be better off without me," it may signal that he/she is thinking about suicide.

IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR FRIEND MIGHT BE THINKING ABOUT SUICIDE - NEVER KEEP IT A SECRET!!!!

The most important thing you can do for a friend is immediately tell a responsible adult - someone who will listen, take you seriously, and take action to get your friend help. If the first adult doesn't listen to you or believe you, keep going, keep going until you find someone. You will not be betraying a friend's trust - it is an act of true friendship! A suicidal threat, even if said jokingly, should always be taken seriously!!

SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR FRIEND(S)
  • Be there. Listen.
  • Don't judge. Take their problems and feelings seriously.
  • Reassure them that there is help, that they will feel good again, and that their suicidal feelings are only temporary.
  • Offer to go with them to talk with a parent, counselor or doctor.
  • You can say things like, "I can tell you're really hurting," or "I care about you and will do my best to help you."
  • Explain that they "just need a little help getting over the hump."
  • If you feel your friend is in immediate danger - get help immediately! A supportive person can mean so much to someone who's in pain!
  • Lastly, if you've ever lost someone you loved or cared about to suicide, it is never your fault! You must always remember that you did the best you could, with what you knew at the time.

For more information, contact:

Your doctor

Your school / university / private practice counsellor

The Mental Health Unit at the hospital

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