Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Help: Depression

1.       The first step to helping someone with Depression is approaching them and letting them know you understand what they are going through and you care.  If you have noticed a classmate or friend has been acting really down lately, or even has noticeable self-harm marks, it’s important to approach them and offer to be there for them.  Depending on your relationship with them, you can either slip them a note, telling them you care, or sit them down and question what’s up. It’s natural to be nervous when approaching such a serious situation.  But would you ever forgive yourself if that person committed suicide the next day and you could have done something to stop it, but chickened out? So maybe that’s a stretch, but put yourself in their shoes: if you were going through a rough patch in your life, wouldn’t you want someone to be there for you? You may be nervous now, but when it’s all said and done, it will be worth it.

2.       So you’ve approached your friend and heard their story. You’ve slipped a note in your classmate’s locker and they called you that afternoon to talk.  The most important thing that you can do now is listen.  Listening does not always include giving advice. Sometimes it may, but on most occasions, listening is just listening: no more, no less. You are a spark of hope, but just like a flame, hope can be diminished.  Keep the fire burning by consistently lending a listening ear.

3.       So here comes the point, after I express the vitality of listening, where I instruct you to tell an adult.  Yes, when you are dealing with a situation such as this, telling a trusted parent, teacher, counselor, is the best thing to do.  They can get professional help from your friend, something that you cannot offer.  But anyone can tell you that.  What no one else has bothered to do though is give you any advice on how to handle the situation is there simply is no one to go to.  So I’ll be the first.

4.       You’ve heard their story; you’ve listened whenever they needed you to.  Now, it’s important to stay updated on how they are feeling. Check up on them on a weekly or daily basis. This could range from long-winded conversations to a simple “How are you?” “Good” type exchange.
A.      I use something I call “emotion bracelets”.  Tell your friend to make a list of the feelings they have most often, like contentment, stress, self-hatred, etc.  you probably want there to be less than ten of them.  Next, assign a color to each bracelet.  You can then either make or buy bracelets of the chosen colors.  When your friend wakes up each morning, he or she will decide what they feel and put on the corresponding bracelets.  They are allowed to wear as many or as little of the bracelets as necessary. Then, make an extra bracelet.  This one will be black.  It means “I need help.” Or “I cut myself” or “I want to committee suicide.” The purpose of the bracelets is to give a voice to the feelings that your friend is too busy, too nervous, or too shy to tell you about.  The bracelets make communication word-optional.  (Remember to write down which colors mean which emotion for both you and your friend)
B. Another daily check I’ve used is to ask “Yes or no.” This means “Did you cut today or not?” No one beside you and your friend will know what the conversation is about.

C. Weekly checks usually require a scheduled time to talk. If time is scarce, consider writing letters to each other.

5. Having someone to talk to will only help to an extent though. Many pieces of one’s life are factors that lead to the monster known as depression. To kill the monster, all its causative agents must be disband. My best advice on this one is to sit down together with a paper and pencil and list everything that contributes to their depression. One the other side of the paper, list what they will do about it. The way I see it is that life isn’t a single path where you get what’s given to you and deal. Life is a series of many paths that interconnect and cross. You can choose any path you wish. You can also choose to bush-whack. If you don’t like the path you’re on, change it. If you cannot change it, decide how you will endure it without letting the dirt you walk on muddy your smile. Put the list you made together into a plan and create goals that go along with them. Soon, your friend will be blazing his or her own trail to the life they want.

6. Help them find something they are passionate about, whether it is a hobby they enjoy or a goal they want to complete. This will bring new meaning to their life. This also becomes their reason to live.

This method has worked for me many times. That being said, it cannot work for everyone. Talk to a trusted adult right away if you start to worry about a friend who has the potential of committing suicide and harming his or herself in any other way. After all, lives are at stake.

Coming up: Do you know how to talk someone out of suicide? Find out next Tuesday 2/12

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