Depression is a sneaky piece of junk.
In order to work through it, you have to talk about it. But the very nature of depression is to tell you that no one cares and it’s embarrassing to have.
Naturally, people don’t want to talk about their weaknesses, thus allowing depression to thrive. The other thing about depression is that it is SUPER easy to hide. I remember one particular day I was at my lowest and having serious suicidal thoughts and was joking with a friend when they said, “You probably have no idea what depression is, you never get sad.” I knew I was good but I didn’t realize I was that good. The truth is someone very close to you could be on the ledge looking down and you’d have no clue. Here’s a list of signs that are so easy to overlook that could be the only ways of knowing how close to suicide a person is.
These signs don’t mean you drop everything and run to them, just make an extra attempt of checking in and reaching out. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to shoot them a text. Maybe open up about your own struggles. Take them out to do things. Invite them over for dinner—ESPECIALLY if they live alone. You don’t need to have the house clean and everything in order and they’re not looking for a five star meal, they’re looking for love and hope. Macaroni and cheese and hot dogs will do just fine for that. Just give them extra attention and love which, sadly, we should be doing anyways.
This one is easy to overlook because most people get offended first. People would ask me to hang out and I’d make something up or say I was just busy. Not because I didn’t want to see THEM, I just didn’t want to see anyone. Unfortunately most people get upset that you don’t want to hang out anymore and write you off. PLEASE don’t do this. Put your feelings aside and talk to them. The comfort of isolation is the same place where depression grows. It’s also the easiest place to take your own life. I’m not saying one cancelled plan is a sign to break down their door, but if it becomes abnormal and a pattern then get in there and talk.
Sarcasm (lack of self-worth and negative self-talk)
You know that saying—that every joke is at least half truth? Depression and anxiety tell you that you’re worthless, and this can be seen in two ways when people really believe they’re unwanted.
First they’ll make fun of themselves. “Man I suck at writing,” or even, “Everyone else is so amazing at singing and I sound like the tone deaf goat from the commercials.”
See what I did there? I even made it funny. Humor is a great and easy way to cover the trail to being discovered.
The second way insecurities can be seen is by making fun of other people. When I feel worthless and just assume everyone hates me then I have no fear of pushing everyone away. Out come the sarcastic comments, the sly insults and passive aggression. Again, some people just joke this way (which still isn’t healthy), but when you notice an increased amount in a person there could easily be a deeper issue going on.
Isolation in the workplace, living alone
I can’t express this enough: Suicide attempts rarely happen in front of people. I’ve walked in on attempts, even showed up when it was too late, but the actual attempt is usually done in isolation. This is actually pretty easy to spot. Are they eating lunch alone a lot at school? At work? Are they avoiding conversations? Are they texting instead of calling? Depression makes you want to avoid human interaction. If you pay attention, you’re going to notice if this is happening.
Giving things away
Quite often it’s despair and the darkness of the world that fuels the feeling of hopelessness. So when a person wants to die, they think of ways to end it on a positive note. This can often look like giving a bunch of things away, writing letters thanking people, even making suggestions if they don’t have things to give like, “I’ve got a thousand bucks in my bank account I really want you to have.” If they actually gave it to you they’d be screwed, but by wording it this way they can see how you react without taking the risk of losing everything. Watch for unusual signs or over appreciation.
There’s no way to make this a big enough deal. If someone ever actually comes out and TELLS you they’re battling depression or suicidal thoughts…take it as if they’re saying “I’m going to kill myself.” When you get to that point where you really want to take your life sometimes you’ll throw one Hail Mary to see if there’s any reason to stick around.
It may appear as a small confession and often the person will try to down play it with “it’s not a big deal,” but there’s a really good chance that it’s their last shot at finding someone who cares.
Keep in mind too that confession takes insane strength. They’re not asking for pity, they’re asking for someone to help them fight their battles. Depression is a war that is lost when it’s fought alone. But again, to ask for help goes against EVERYTHING that depression tells you. “No one wants to hear about your problems.” “No one will understand.” “No one cares.” They will try to down play it and there’s a really good chance they’re looking to see how you respond. This is where words are great but actions prove if you really care or not. Follow up with texts checking in, help them set up a list of things to do to work toward getting better, help them achieve that list! Don’t just say nice things, do them.
It’s so important to also remember that you are their friend, not their savior. It’s not up to you to “fix” everything. Just to love them as best as you can and push them toward Jesus and finding more people to help them. It takes an army to defeat depression, so help them build that army!