My last newsletter reminded all of you that September is National Suicide Prevention month. This week I’d like to offer some strategies I used to fight off the darkness when I was a suicide risk. And I’ll also give you a few that worked when my Mom was the one at risk, and I needed both to help her and to keep myself upright under the weight and responsibilities that come with being a caretaker.
If you are depressed or suicidal:
- Reach out to your family and friends to talk about your feelings–even if they are painful ones. Isolation is a killer.
- Don’t spend too much time sleeping. Staying in “the land of the bed” is one of the surest ways to prolong your depression.
- Get some daily exercise, even when you don’t feel like moving.
- See a therapist, both to talk about the darkness in which you are living and to get appropriate medication.
- Take your prescribed medication without fail, even if it is hard to make yourself.
- Curl up with your dog or cat, and bathe yourself in an endless dose of unconditional love. Both sloppy kisses and gigantic purrs make you feel less alone.
- Try meditation. It helps to relax you, and can bring peace and relief for a while.
- Keep working, even when it seems impossible. Work can center you again, make you feel like a worthwhile person, and take your mind off your pain and self-loathing.
- Spend time with a friend who understands what you are going through and doesn’t judge you for it. This kind of friendship will sustain you through the hardest times.
- Get out and volunteer anywhere that needs help, like a soup kitchen, an elementary school, an animal rescue shelter, your church or temple community.
If you have a depressed or suicidal family member or friend:
- Make sure he doesn’t hibernate in a back bedroom, without anyone to talk to–despite the fact that he may forbid you to even knock on the door. Open it anyway.
- Get her outside, for a car ride, a movie, an ice cream cone–even if she doesn’t want to move beyond the front door.
- Know that a depressed person can remain depressed for a long time and don’t expect an instant cure. Be patient.
- Don’t hesitate to call a doctor, hospital or suicide hotline if he threatens to take his life.
- If you live with your depressed loved one, and can take on some extra manual labor, buy a furry round-the-clock companion for her. The boundless adoration of a dog or cat offers continual and stressless support: non-judgmental and unconditional love for someone who can’t bear to look at herself in the mirror each morning.
- Try to picture and remember him from better times. Be positive when talking with him.
- Reach outside the family. You may find help with a therapist, or with your child’s school coach or counselor, or with a priest or rabbi or minister–or simply with a good friend who is not threatened emotionally by depression or suicide. Be sure to build a strong support system for yourself.
- Take regular breaks from caretaking and have someone else who is responsible take on the suicide watch for a while.
These are just a few suggestions. I could probably think of forty more. If you have some of your own, please write and tell me. I want to hear your ideas, too.
I believe the most important thing to do is to talk to those you love who are depressed, or to those who have dealt with others suffering from this terrible illness. It is the enemy and you must fight it. For yourself. And for them.
If you or someone you know needs guidance through the darkness, please consider the following: