The Stigma of Depression and Suicide by T.W.

My sister is on a search and rescue team in Boulder. Two summers ago she and her crew went to search for a 17-year-old girl who disappeared around Flagstaff. The fire chief told them that the girl’s boyfriend had just broken up with her. Her family said she was on medication  for depression and anxiety. When she didn’t show up for school, her family found a note she left behind. My sister spent hours in the mountains with her crew, looking for the lost girl. They had been briefed for hours about how to deal with someone suffering from depression but they didn’t get a chance. Eventually they found the lost girl. She had jumped off a 100-foot cliff and died instantly. My sister and her partner found her and guided the police to her body.

Every year, more than 150,000 teenagers in the U.S. receive medical help because of self-inflicted injuries, according to the website healthresearchfunding.org. According to statistics from rawhide.org, 5,400 teenagers commit suicide every year, a rate that has tripled since 1960 even though we have more suicide prevention programs than before. Seventeen percent of high school kids in grades 9-12 have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s website cdc.gov, males usually use guns to kill themselves. Females use poison.

The Centers for Disease Control says the risk factors for suicide are a family history of suicide, a history of depression or mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, a stressful life event or loss, easy access to lethal methods like a gun, exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, or being in jail. It also says that the victims are often blamed or their families are blamed and people don’t often want to talk about their problems. Healthresearchfunding.org states that studies show that at least 90% of teenagers who kill themselves have mental problems. So if someone is suffering from a mental issue or going through a tough experience, how do we help them?

A friend of mine started suffering from depression her senior year in high school. Brianna’s always been kind of quiet, but she has a lot of friends. Last fall, she was nervous about going to college, really anxious about being on her own. She took a lot of advanced courses and she started wearing herself out. She gained weight and started hating herself because she couldn’t fit in her clothes. Even though Brianna has nice parents, she started falling apart. She told me she thought about dying a lot because the stress was too much and one day I saw her at the back of the class crying. I found out later that she went to be evaluated that night because she was thinking about suicide. She wasn’t in class for the next month. “All I wanted to do was stay in bed,” she told me. What was strange was that, not even a week before she fell apart she looked fine. She was a social butterfly and I’d always see her in the hallways talking to a bunch of girls. I never would have thought she’d be so depressed. She told me she was too embarrassed to tell people how much she hated herself for not being able to keep up in math class, and how much weight she’d gained over the semester. She said she was scared she would fail in college. Now she’s seeing a therapist and she’s on meds for depression.   

I think the best thing we could do for people is be a friend. I think social media makes us feel more alone and we don’t get relationships from following someone on facebook. I ask my friends how they’re doing and I listen to people. I think if people listened to their friends and actually take the time to like be a friend that someone who’s depressed would explain what’s going on. I think the expectations of our culture put so much pressure on people my age. The girls all think they have to look a certain way and guys think they have to dress cool every day. Everybody is so self conscious and the think worse of themselves than they really are. We need to encourage and support each other, stop judging and realize that friendship is important not just because it’s fun to have friends but because we need to communicate and know that other people are going through problems too and we can support each other no matter what is going on.

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