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Helping Others

If you believe someone is going to act on their suicidal thoughts contact the emergency services. If you can be with them, stay with them until they get help. Do not leave them alone.

If you know someone who is severely depressed or suicidal and you want to know how you can help them, I recommend looking at the websites of the mental health charities (below) who have plenty of advice on helping someone with their mental health illness. I have also summarised some advice here as well from my own experiences.

Advice from The Royal College of Psychiatrists.

How can I help someone who is depressed?

  • Listen. This can be harder than it sounds. You may have to hear the same thing over and over again. It's usually best not to offer advice unless it's asked for, even if the answer seems perfectly clear to you. If depression has been brought on by a particular  problem,  you may be able to help  find a solution or at least a way of tackling the difficulty.
  • It's helpful just to spend time with someone who is depressed. You can encourage them, help them to talk, and help them to keep going with some of the things they normally do.
  • Someone who is depressed will find it hard to believe that they can ever get better. You can reassure them that they will get better, but you may have to repeat this over and over again.
  • Make sure that they are buying enough food and eating enough.
  • Help them to stay away from alcohol.
  • If they are getting worse and start to talk of not wanting to live or even hinting at harming themselves, take them seriously. Make sure that they tell their doctor.
  • Encourage them to accept help. Don't discourage them from taking medication, or seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist. If you have worries about the treatment, then you may be able to discuss them first with the doctor.

My story

I suffer from depression and in 2016 I felt suicidal. It's not something I am comfortable talking about but it was the reason I felt the need to research suicide for my website.

I turned to a friend for help because I knew I was at the point where I would act on those thoughts. I had been having suicidal thoughts for some time but always found a reason to stop myself. On this particular day I couldn't find that reason, so I telephoned a friend I knew would help - and they did, briefly. Later that evening I got worse and I didn't want to burden my friend again. Alone and spiralling mentally, I left my home and headed for the woods intent on bringing my life to an end. I remembered something my therapist had said - If you think you will actually go though with it, call 999. It was really hard to do but I called 999. I don't want to go into detail but the police were very helpful and so were the team at the hospital I ended up in.

However, after recovering and returning to work I found that people who did not understand mental health turned on me. Work colleagues I considered friends talked about me behind my back. I was dumbfounded. I was accused of being a possible serial killer, of being unstable and of harassing a colleague. The experience really scared me and I realised that being open about my depression had given these narrow-minded people ammunition against me. I put my trust in the managers - and they sacked me.

The whole experience was awful. I realised that people who do not suffer from depression and who do not understand it make assumptions about what it means. I really hated those few ex work colleagues for what they did. If I was the "possible serial killer" that they had suggested, surely they would all be dead now! I am not - and never have been - a violent person. My depression is a gun aimed solely at me.

Don't be like those people. Learn about mental health and try to understand.
Contact your friend or family member once a day to see how they are. If you live with them, ask them how they are.

Someone suffering from depression is not moody for the "fun of it" so don't take it as a personal insult to you that they feel low. You may be amazing - and they may agree that you are - but that's not going to cure their depression.

Avoid saying "Cheer up" or "things could be worse". This doesn't help.

If someone you know is starting new medication, try to keep a closer connection with them. When I ended up in hospital the doctors concluded that my suicidal thoughts were probably due to me starting new medication, drinking alcohol and having recently moved home to live alone. Oh, and I had just got though Christmas, which is always a hard time of the year for me mentally.

People kept telling me to go for walks because exercise is good for depression. Personally, I found going for walks alone more depressing and I really wanted people to stop telling me to do it. Rather that "tell" them what to do, ask them what they would like to do. Make time for them.

I would lock myself away and avoid people. I even kept the curtains closed all day to keep the outside world out. When people I liked invited me out I would turn them down because I was hiding. If I did go out I just wanted to go home and hide. If you think someone is doing the same, you can use phone calls, emails, texting, Skype, etc, to show you care. Don't give up on them. They still need you. Ask if you can visit them.

I said this just now but don't give up on them. Asking how they are once and then losing contact for a week will not help.

Not all depressed people walk around looking glum. I would crack jokes and make myself look confident to hide how I felt. Look at how many comedians suffer from depression. So don't assume that they are fine just because they made you laugh.