Knowing someone with depression and believing you know what depression is can often be misconstrued.

No one truly knows what depression feels like until they’ve been depressed or have been the direct supporter of someone with it. Even then, it’s not the same.

Depression is lonely. It’s scary. It’s angry. It’s sad and it’s fierce! It can make the happiest of people become someone that even themselves don’t recognize.

“Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chris Stapleton wrote a song about watching someone you love go through it and the finality of it. Watch at your own risk. It’s heartbreaking.

Depression sucks. Period. Paragraph.

My family knows depression and suicide well. My brother, Tony, committed suicide almost 10 years ago. A day me and my family will NEVER forget.

Growing up Tony wasn’t always depressed. In fact, he was quite the ham. Always happy, smart a**, funny, ornery, and carefree. He didn’t do drugs, wasn’t a big drinker and was just a fun loving guy! Everyone loved Tony. He met his wife while I was in high school and they married and had 4 beautiful children over the course of their marriage. His youngest was just 2 when he died.

Tony got in a car accident some years before and was dealing with a lot of back pain. At first, he took the pain meds, but over time began searching for alternative medication as he wasn’t one who wanted to be on heavy narcotics. He had a medical background as a respiratory therapist and had worked for a pharmaceutical company for some time so he knew the long term effects of long term pain management with controlled substance medication.

He tried everything from nerve blockers, spine simulators, and more. Nothing worked quite as good as those pills. His family needed him to be functional. As a dad of 3 active boys and an almost teenager, he needed to be there. I can’t say for sure what he thought or how he felt. I only know what he allowed me to know. We all “knew” (or thought we did) that he was in pain. The medication was making him not himself. He was angry, sad, and he distanced himself. As Bonhoeffer said, he isolated himself and sin was allowed to destruct his life.

In September of 2008, we all got a call. Tony had attempted suicide for the first time. It was his cry for help. We all showed up, offered support, he sought out therapy, we all checked in on him regularly, but I don’t think any of us saw the ultimate signs.

  1. Personality changes. You may notice sudden or gradual changes in the way that someone typically behaves. People in this situation may behave in ways that don’t seem to fit their values, or the person may just seem different.
  2. Uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated, or moody. You may notice the person has more frequent problems controlling his or her temper and seems irritable , anxious or unable to calm down. People in more extreme situations of this kind may be unable to sleep or may explode in anger at a minor problem.
  3. Withdrawal or isolation from other people. Someone who used to be socially engaged may pull away from family and friends and stop taking part in activities that used to be enjoyable. In more severe cases the person may start failing to make it to work or school. Not to be confused with the behavior of someone who is more introverted, this sign is marked by a change in a person’s typical sociability, as when someone pulls away from the social support typically available.
  4. May neglect self-care and engage in risky behavior. You may notice a change in the person’s level of personal care or an act of poor judgment. For instance, someone may let personal hygiene deteriorate, or the person may start abusing alcohol or illegal substances or engaging in other self-destructive behavior that may alienate loved ones.
  5. Overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by circumstances. Have you noticed someone who used to be optimistic and now can’t find anything to be hopeful about? That person may be suffering from extreme or prolonged grief, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt. People in this situation may say that the world would be better off without them, suggesting suicidal thinking.

Suicide is an epidemic that takes over 800,000 lives globally every year. In the United States alone there are one million suicide attempts and over 40,000 deaths by suicide every year.

On April 19, 2009, we got another call but this time he didn’t just attempt, he succeeded. Tony was found, dead, in his car on the side of the road with a lethal amount of narcotics found in his system. Our lives shattered that day. His wife, his four children, our mother, his father, step-father, his 4 sisters, his nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles… all in pain. The ripple that it leaves behind it drastic and far reaching. You tell me, does this like someone who was depressed?

Research has shown that for every one suicide death, over 115 people are directly, and secondarily effected and the financial cost of suicide in the US is estimated to be over 40 billion dollars annually. Suicide is global public health crisis that is not receiving the attention it deserves and therefore millions continue to die and the ripple effects of these deaths continue to devastate parents, children, families, friends and communities.

The Ripple effect

Aetna is working to change the stigma with Depression and mental health. They have teamed up with a company called Change Direction. It’s geared at educating people on what depression looks like, how to recognize depression, how to help as well and ultimately remove the stigma. Typically a feeling that those who have it should be ashamed or that something is wrong with them!

I took the pledge. I pledge to:

  • Share Info from this site to someone in need
  • Lookout for friends and loved ones and support them when needed.
  • Share my Mental Health Story to help others understand mental health.
  • Challenge mental health discrimination when I hear or see it.
  • Volunteer at a local event to raise awareness of mental health.

There are ways WE can help. I know my sisters, my mom and I all asked ourselves after our brother died… “What could we have done different?” Not necessarily blaming ourselves, though I’m sure there was a bit of that as well… But genuinely asking ourselves if we would have recognized it, addressed it more urgently – could we have prevented it? I know that is a common question among loved ones who have lost someone to suicide.

The answer is different for everyone.

The Change Direction Campaign posted some great discussions to begin having.

  1. Have you or someone you care about struggled emotionally? Have you ever lost someone you know to suicide – have you ever contemplated harming yourself?
  2. Why do you think it is difficult for people to acknowledge emotional pain? Why is it difficult for us to reach out for help?
  3. What can we do to make it easier for everyone to talk about our emotional health, wellness, and illness?
  4. When you see someone suffering emotionally, what can you do to help them? What are things that you do to take care of yourself emotionally?

Five Ways to Find Help:

  1. Check out our Help page at www.changedirection.org/help-line-resources
  2. You can locate mental health support and care through community mental health centers – hospitals and emergency rooms also have information about resources in your community.
  3. Contact your school and ask about available support – counseling and peer support groups are often available.
  4. Contact your faith-based organization and ask for recommendations in your community for mental health support.
  5. Many communities now have a 211 directory – a free and confidential service available 24/7 that connects you to local resources

Five Ways to Change the Culture of Mental Health:

  1. Make a Pledge to learn and share the Five Signs at changedirection.org
  2. Make mental health and wellness a priority by taking care of yourself and those you love.
  3. Connect, reach out, inspire hope, and offer help when you see someone is in emotional pain. Show compassion and caring and a willingness to find a solution when the person may not have the will or drive to do it alone. It may take more than one offer, and you may need to reach out to others who share your concern about the person who is suffering.
  4. Give your time to organizations and efforts in your community that are working to Change Direction.
  5. Contribute financially to national and local efforts that are making a difference. One size doesn’t fit all. If you have an idea or a notion about how you can help or fill a need in your classroom, school or community, reach out to your networks and make it happen.

If you are feeling low or recognize any of the above feelings and don’t feel comfortable to reach out to someone close to you, then please…

Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling.

As I always say: My door is open, the coffee will always be on. I am here. Judgement free. Whatever I can do I will try.

Join in me in pledging. Join me in changing the stigma. #changementalhealth

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