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Suicide prevention awareness and what you can do to help

Tina Kephart

Because depression affects one in five people at some point in their lives, chances are you know someone who is currently living with the illness, or you will know someone in the future. In fact, according to the 2019 Centre County Community Health Needs Assessment, Centre County adults report an average of four poor mental health days per month, and more than one in four Centre County students in middle and high school reported feeling sad or depressed on most days in the past year.

National Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 8-14, and an important time to talk about depression and what you can do to support a loved one who’s suffering.

What to know

It’s important to understand that depression is a serious condition that goes beyond the occasional days we all have when we’re feeling blue. Your loved one is likely depressed if you notice that they:

–Don’t seem to care about anything anymore

–Express a bleak or negative outlook on life or talks about feeling “helpless” or “hopeless”

–Frequently complain of aches and pains or about feeling tired all the time

–Sleep less than usual or oversleeps

–Eat more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight or

–Drink more or abuses drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers

How to help

If you do know someone who is suffering with depression, there are some basic ways you can help. As their friend or loved one, it’s natural to feel powerless, frustrated, conflicted and unequipped. To help navigate the foggy journey that it is, consider the following are a few “do’s and don’ts” for supporting someone who is depressed:

–DO listen without judgment.

–DO express empathy, encouragement, and support.

–DO help them find resources.

–DO know your role and have realistic expectations for yourself within it.

Just as important to remember are things not to do. Even if your intent is to help, you should refrain from doing the following:

–DON’T say, “be strong,” “don’t cry,” “focus on the positives!” or “be grateful for what you have.”

–DON’T be afraid to ask if they’re suicidal.

–DON’T minimize what they’re going through, don’t tell them there are people with bigger problems, and don’t tell them you know exactly how they feel.

–DON’T Go MIA or give up on them (without talking to them about it first).

–Finally, and most importantly, DON’T neglect yourself in the process!

Resources

If you suspect that a loved one needs help, encourage them to reach out to their doctor or go directly to the emergency department of their local hospital.

Additional resources include:

Jana Marie Foundation. To learn more about how this local nonprofit organization works to spark conversations, build connections and promotes mental wellbeing among young people and their communities – including a number of educational programs and events – visit janamariefoundation.org or call 814.954.5920.

Local CAN HELP crisis line is available 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week at 1.800.643.5432

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8285.

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Tina Kephart, RN-BC, is the director of behavioral health services at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

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