How to Have a Positive Conversation about Depression and Suicide
The purpose of this article is to share some practical insight with the millions of people who are currently struggling with depression. And for the rest of the people out there, this article is for you, too. Since you are the ones who have to deal with people around you who are depressed.
According to The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2016, “an estimated 2.2 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode with severe impairment. This number represented 9.0% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17.” (Last year, 1 in 10 kids were severely depressed for at least 2 weeks.)
Ok, now do I have your attention? Depression is a HUGE issue right now. What does it mean to be depressed? Being depressed doesn’t only mean feeling sad. It can come out in forms of anhedonia- not being able to find pleasure in ordinary things like going out with friends or exercising. Depression is feeling amotivated, lethargic, tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, bitter, pissed, trapped, helpless… depression comes in all shapes and sizes.
I think right now in today’s society, we treat depression like such a normal feeling. We are so used to feeling overwhelmed by society’s pressures. Pressure to get the promotion, pressure to lose the extra 5 pounds, pressure to keep up on social media, pressure to “relax”… I mean, we are so used to these feelings that we end up feel overwhelmed and may say things like, “I want to kill myself!” or “I just want to die!” When is the last time YOU said this out loud to a loved one, a friend, or maybe just to yourself in your own mind.
You guys, I’m really trying to focus on the power of speech for the purpose of this article. When we continuously think about suicidal feelings, what happens is that we start to get used to these thoughts. We get so used to thinking them in our heads, that we start feeling comfortable saying them out loud, especially to people close to us, like our romantic parters or parents or best friends. Sooner or later, these SCARY words stop SCARING us, since we hear them all the time. (I’m not even necessarily talking about someone who suffers with clinical depression, but mostly referring to the average millennial who goes through 100 different emotions by the time they eat lunch.)
We NEED to stop talking about depression so casually and so passively! Saying “I want to kill myself” or “I feel suicidal” is a very serious feeling, and a very vulgar phrase. We need to stop throwing it around in today’s conversations so freely. Parents need to stop saying it, kids need to stop saying it, celebrities need to stop saying it and we need to start talking about what it means when you say these words.
[Disclaimer- This article is solely intended as an informative tool for changing thoughts associated with different behaviors and words, and should not be taken as direct medical advice. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital Emergency Room.]
Talking about suicidal feelings and thoughts is very frightening. And people need to be reminded of this fact.
Instead of talking about death next time we feel depressed or overwhelmed, we need to change our words and expressions.
Make a list of 3 phrases such as “I want to run away”, “I feel frustrated”, and “I feel overwhelmed”. Now write your list on a little piece of paper, fold it up, and put it in your wallet.
Did you make your list?
Now, the next time you feel this way, take out your list of anti-depressant words. Instead of “I want to kill myself”, say “I want to run away” and then start thinking about where you can go running… a garden, a tropical rain forest, a jungle, a desert….You can start thinking about what clothes you will bring on your adventure, what will you eat, who will you go with? Say “I feel frustrated/overwhelmed” and then list the reasons you feel this way. “I feel overwhelmed because I have to do a, b, and c”. And then each task probably won’t seem so huge if you break it down into smaller parts.
The goal with this exercise is to start talking about depression in a healthy way, in a more realistic way, a more practical way. It’s not practical to talk about death, or blood, or guts, or any of the other scary stuff that goes along with thinking about suicidal feelings. Disassociate yourself from those painful words that bring on more pain when you start ruminating about them. Start teaching yourself how to think in a totally different mindset when you get into those dark episodes of depression and frustration.
Everyone needs to wake up and look around them. Everyone is dealing with depression. In 2016, “an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults.” (NIMH)
If you have depression, stop hiding in a corner under your blanket and share the way you feel. We need to help each other as a collective society to remind each other that feeling depressed and overwhelmed is a very normal thing, but feeling suicidal, is not. Let’s change the way we talk about sad and dark feelings. When you change your speech, you change your mind!
Thanks for reading! Let me know you enjoyed this article by hitting the applause button or send me comments below. Check out my other article about taking control of anxiety. Follow me on instagram @nursepractitioner_emily for more inspirational text related to mental health and wellbeing or visit https://emilyrabinowitz.netlify.com/ to learn more.
Emily is a California Board-Certified Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who specializes in mental health infused with laughter, beauty, and holistic treatment. She provides medication management and psychotherapy throughout the Greater Los Angeles area. Originating from the east coast, her academic training includes The Penn State University and University of Maryland. Her clinical experience includes The Johns Hopkins Hospital, The University of Maryland, The Sheppard Pratt Health System, The Complete Wellness, Stanford Hospital, Westside Community Services, and Artemis Institute for Clinical Research. Emily lives in Venice Beach, California with her husband and mini dachshund named Henry.