Depression and Suicide: How Individuals and Communities Can Help

Depression is a mental illness that can affect people of any age, gender or socioeconomic status.

Depression can cause feelings of persistent sadness and loss of interest. It can affect how a person thinks, feels, and acts, making it difficult to manage the day-to-day activities of life. Depression can follow a period of time or a series of difficult life events where a person feels they have little or no control. Depression is real, common, and treatable.

According to information from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depression symptoms in children, youths and adults can be similar, but there are also some differences. Younger children may not be able to verbalize feelings. Symptoms of depression may materialize as and distress may be seen in the form of acting out behaviors or irritability.

Teens or young adults experiencing depression may engage in risk-taking behaviors such

as use of drugs or alcohol in addition to feelings of irritability, low self-worth, apathy and loss of interest in normal activities.

Depression is not a normal part of aging. Symptoms in the elderly may show up with increasing

physical health issues, chronic pain and memory issues. Elderly may experience change in appetite and sleep patterns and thoughts of suicide. The important thing to remember is that depression and other mental health issues are treatable.

Depression may lead to suicidal thoughts. Knowing what to look for, how to respond and what resources are available in the community can help connect people to help.

Individuals experiencing depression can help manage their depression by staying connected to others, engaging in physical activity, getting enough sleep, learning positive coping tools, reaching out for support and trying medications. It is ok for concerned friends and family to ask a person directly if they are thinking about suicide.

Approach this topic with care and concern and help connect them to appropriate supports.

Community agencies and organizations can support individuals and families by sharing support resources, and making sure people know how to access the resources. Communities can build resilience and hope by promoting activities that connect individuals, families, organizations and groups such as celebrations of cultural traditions, community suicide prevention awareness walks, workforce wellness programs, community health fairs, family nights hosted at schools, or youth and adult parks and recreation activities.

It is important for communities dealing with a trauma or loss to support the healing and recovery of anyone affected by the loss in a safe and respectful way. Suicide loss survivors are often affected by stigma that surrounds suicide, which can prevent them from sharing and reaching out for support. Friends, family, and others can support suicide loss survivors by reaching out and actively listening without judgement and criticism.

Expressing condolences with compassion and asking if and how you can help to support them can be comforting. Providing community opportunities for grief support groups and sharing other community support resources can assist suicide loss survivors on their recovery journey.

Most people who think about suicide do not attempt it, but rather get help and find hope. That is why we must stay vigilant and do what we can to support those in need. Crisis services are available in Minnesota 24 hours a day by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting “MN” to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line. You can also visit www.mn.gov/dhs/crisis to find your local mobile crisis provider, or call 911 for immediate medical attention.

Source: Brainerd Disptach

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