A few days ago, I was on an online chat forum. Often times, people will just spout out random things and tidbits. That day, a friend said, “A girl from my university tried to commit suicide by stabbing herself in the head. But she lived. LOL, so stupid.”
And thus commenced the eruption.
I was horrified. Why would he ever joke about that? I can understand making a joke privately to a friend you know well, but saying that online is horrible. I told him that. A girl who publicly made it known to everyone that she was chronically depressed jumped in to say she found his comment offensive. Another guy jumped in and supported the OP.
They kept saying stuff like, “Suicide is selfish,” “Killing yourself is cowardly,” “It’s stupid to off yourself.” I kept defending my opinion until I was exhausted. “These people are mentally ill, they need your support.” I got in the shower, and looked at my phone again after I got out.
DXXX: Depression is the latest fad (w/link)
Unbidden, all these horrible thoughts and feelings came back, and I started crying. He had posted that link long after people had told him to stop talking about the subject. How could people be so cruel? Where was the empathy?
The truth is that I am not an unbiased person at all. I come from a family full of unhappy people, spanning generations. My grandmother ate and smoked herself to death, threatened to commit suicide, tried to kill a family member, and was bipolar. My parents have had their share of unhappiness, which I am not permitted to discuss because they are still living and would be mad at me. And I myself was put on anti-depressants when I was 4 or 5, and have never fully been taken off. I was committed to a psychiatric facility for a week when I was 14 because I wanted to kill myself.
“Suicide is selfish, yada yada yada” argument
Even though I feel much better now, I find something lurking in that edge of my mind sometimes. That’s why their words really hurt me. Their argument was the same argument my leading doctor used in the psych ward. The thing is, it worked beautifully—at first. What the “suicide is selfish and you’re a coward and a wimp” does is instill enough guilt to prevent you from killing yourself. But as you think about it, you become so ashamed that you confirm your worst fears—that you are a horrible, worthless person. And you don’t really want to live after that, do you? It’s really bad for your soul and leads you to destructive thoughts. If you’ve ever said this to someone, shame on you! Unless they’re about to jump from a roof, try a different approach.
All that damn sympathy
I once went to a shrink that always, always, always had a puppy-dog look on his face. “And that must have hurt,” he would say after I told him something. Goodness, he was a lovely person but a dim bulb, I would say. He never questioned my judgment or implied I was at fault. Please, if you are ever in a therapist’s room (and I hope you go once) and they do this to you, walk away. Your money has been ill spent. Don’t get me wrong, sympathy is lovely. It’s needed. But not all the time. Don’t be friends with your therapist or call them by their first name. You are a buyer of a service. Most importantly, don’t play the victim. This constant “pat-on-the-back” nonsense only victimizes people more, and makes them feel like they are not responsible for their behavior, that it’s always someone else’s fault.
It’s a tricky road
Be careful when dealing with someone suffering from depression and/or suicidal thoughts. Even though I think the term is cliché, it is apt. They really do suffer, and what you say may help. It might hurt as well, but don’t blame yourself if something turns sour. Depressed people are people are people. Don’t put them on a victimized pedestal; they are often pretty smart, manipulative, desperate for affection or attention, and highly sensitive. They can lash out. Don’t take it personal.
- Try to talk to them about their feelings/behaviors. If they admit to feeling down or engaging in destructive behaviors such as cutting themselves, they are ready to get help. If not, a good thing to do would be talking to someone close to them (IF THEY ARE PHYSICALLY IN DANGER. If they’re feeling a little blue, maybe let it be.)
- Listen. Just hear what they are saying. Letting them discuss problems and issues may take a weight off their shoulders. And if you don’t know what to say, ask the 5 W’s + H. For instance, “Why do you feel that way? When did this happen? What are you doing to fight this?”
- Suggest that they join activities or support groups, or see a psychiatrist. Exercise is really great for alleviating stress and sadness. Here are some exercise tips.
- Don’t let a friend’s depression engulf your life and time. You can’t always be there for them, and you have to take care of yourself. There is only so much you can do—the rest is up to them.
Maybe you think me a little contradictory, harsh, etc… However, I think it’s important to be a wide-eyed sympathetic. In other words, don’t be blind. If someone keeps making excuses, they aren’t ready to get better. If they keep making destructive choices despite everything, they don’t care about themselves—and you need to let them come to a decision on their own. But if they ask for help, it’s your moral duty to try.