Recently I’ve been acutely depressed for roughly six months and have battled suicidal thoughts – there are days when ending it feels like the needed thing to do and most times, there are moments when I don’t know how to feel anything else but gloom; I can’t account for what I feel and why I feel that way and on these days, I sometimes allow myself to feel these things and some other days, I take charge of my mind, my thoughts and choose life. The truth remains that I am not the only one who had felt that way or who feels that way at times. Suffice it to say that so many people are going through that right now but in a country like Nigeria where we don’t believe in mental health awareness and the presence and realness of depression, it can be quite difficult for people to be vulnerable and sincere with their condition. I’ve learnt a lot over the past years about depression and suicide and the following are things I’ve identified;
- People who commit suicide really do not want to die. As complicated as this might seem, it is the truth. A lot of things cause depression, and suicides are end results of lost battles of chronic depression. A person suffering from a chronic case of depression is bound to have the illusion that death is the solution to the issue that drove him/her to be depressed and not because he/she really wants to die. Most times, it’s a cry for help and when it feels like no one sees or listens, they are driven to the point where they take their own life. The essence of living is lost, the thirst for ambition is not there and sometimes it feels like living is not for them, life hates them and their presence is a burden to the world, friends and families. One thing I am sure of is, as much as it is easy to call people who have taken their own life cowards, I think it takes a great deal of tiredness to shut all of one’s mind and take one’s life in whatever forms of suicide – trust me, I’ve seen people go through health pain and die but imagining the anguish and suffering that happens when someone intentionally takes his/her own life by swallowing something or tying the rope; I can’t bring myself to imagine it.
- Even the tiniest thing especially triggers can lead to depression and then suicide. I suffered depression at a point in time but I never knew it was called depression as at that time and it wasn’t that fore-grounded because it wasn’t acute or let me just say I pulled through by God’s help ‘cause depression wouldn’t really be one of my issues if I’m to itemize but I went through it and not once have I been suicidal through those years (never really considered taking my own life) until recently when I had a trigger and yes, there were times when I felt like I should just end it. Boy, I was acutely depressed. I would feel like he/she is right, you’re better off dead! But the truth remains that I could never have had the guts to take my own life. It was all felt and never planned (what should I employ in ending it) nor attempted but I realised I’m just one of those few cases because the truth is, the people who took their own lives never thought they could do that either. My point, there is bound to be a more catastrophic and pronounced depression that could be suicidal if there’s a trigger of what was survived. It could be loss (person, job, marriage, repeated mistake, cycles, etc.) or could be unhappiness, pressure from within and without.
- Not every depression/suicidal thought was hidden. There is this thing people say about not knowing or nothing they could have done because the depressed person didn’t look it neither did he/she displayed signs of being depressed. Well, as much as it is true that so many people battling depression do quite a good job at masking it, it’s not true in all cases. In some cases, someone was able to pick it – someone was able to see beyond the act and sense a little bit of imbalance in the emotions and mental stability but they didn’t do anything about it because they feel they could be wrong or the person might not want their privacy infringed on or better still they feel there was nothing they could do to help and these assumptions have caused us so many lives we could have saved if only we decide to break through their walls or follow our guts/inclinations.
- Anyone can help. Yes, anyone can help so far you’re not insensitive in words, action and attitude. There isn’t so much required in helping a depressed person through their struggle that anyone don’t have and can’t afford. We all have love and can afford it unless we don’t want to show it.
- A larger percent of suicide were fuelled by people’s utterances. Believe it or not, so many people simply killed themselves because of what people have said to them. So many others gave up on their strength to pull through in the middle of the crises because of what someone has said to them and some people’s triggers were simply words. I shared on my Instagram page how I had shared my struggle with a friend and he asked me if I needed rope to do it or I have an unfixed fan so he could help me fix it only for him to call me a day after asking if I ended up killing myself. I know it was funny to him but the fact that I didn’t let that spur me to death doesn’t mean some people can handle such utterances. Let’s be careful of what we say to people. Let our words not be the reason someone decides life isn’t for him/her.
- Just becausethey smile and keep it together doesn’t mean they are mentally healthy. If only we could see through people’s faces into their hearts and souls at times, we would realize there are lots of painbeing suppressed in the bid to keep it together. The term keeping it together has gone from what it used to be and has become a term where people feign being okay while trying not to fall apart while they are terribly fallen on the inside so bad that the body is just not telling. We all have issues that we weather through life but not all issues create depression, mental imbalance, panic attacks and more.
- Creating a bill that sanctions anyone caught trying to commit suicide in Nigeria won’t help. Believe me, this isn’t the way forward. I was watching a programme on TVC one night. I’ve forgotten the title of the programme but it was a woman and a man in a debate on suicide and depression and the part that caught me the most was when the man said anyone caught trying to kill himself should be penalized and a bill should be passed to that effect. Please, in a country where we are still trying to educate people on how real depression is, you think saving a man from dying and then charging him to court help reduce the challenge and create mental awareness? Yes, on no account should anyone take his/her life and yes, maybe the situation in the country increases some people’s depression and push to commit suicide, still we all are not the same – sometimes we fight the same war but not everyone survives the war – we all don’t have the same strength and even if we do, we all are not aware of it. So please, passing such bill is a wrong call of judgement.
How do we help right?
The following are ways we can help a depressed or suicidal person rightly;
- Don’t turn a deaf ear to people’s cry for help. Everything is not attention and even if it is, it really wouldn’t hurt, would it?
- Stop trivializing people’s pain. Everything is not a joke ‘cause at the end of the day, your regret won’t send them back to planet earth.
- Show love and care – remind them of the happy moments, show them reasons why they’d want to stick around, make them realize that someone does care about them – that ending it is never the solution. Help them to stop paying attention to that which hurts. It’s never as bad as it seems. That what they are going through or have experienced is not stronger than them; it’s not powerful enough to drive them to early grave and that they are not only important but valuable to this planet.
- If you are sure they are depressed and are denying it, bring someone in that cares about them and help them to break down the walls and let them know it’s okay to feel the way they do ‘cause they are not alone.
- Stop telling them about hell after death. One of the things I learnt from so many stories of suicide I’ve read is that at that point, those people don’t care about anything but ending it. They care more about themselves than they care about anyone. We consider it selfish when we look at the parents, sisters and all but they see their exit as a way of relieving their loved ones of their So when someone tells you about wanting to end it and you tell them do you know people who kill themselves are going to hell. Of course they know! But they don’t send you because they would always believe you don’t understand and allow them leave the world first and they’ll settle hell later on. You wanna help people? Stop telling them the scary truth; tell them the truth that brings life without them having to end it.
- Stop comparing them with someone else. People do this a lot! They’d say is it not the same thing that Lagbaja went through and he survived? In fact, she went through worse than yours, what have you now seen that you’re trying to kill yourself? You better receive sense. Sister, we get your point but your approach is very wrong. We all grieve differently. We react to things differently. We process and heal differently. So, there’s no wisdom in telling a depressed person to suck it up because she’s seen nothing compared to Lagbaja’s own.
- Don’t give up on them even if they have on themselves.Sometimes, it’s difficult to hold on alone.Your faith when they’ve lost theirs might just be the only thing that saves them.
- Help them to make efforts to heal. It’s okay to reach out on their behalf. Help them get materials that relates to what they are dealing with. Sometimes they may not know how to get help, it’s okay to let the onus fall on you.
- Pray for them and go through their healing mantras with them. Yes, as much as I’ve come to realize recently that it’s not all spiritual, and there’s a place for physical effort that is crucial, I believe in prayers, confessions and studying the word.I survived the early rough years of my life doing it the spiritual way but then again, I had it rough again and I learnt that yes, I catered for the spiritual but I need to understand that this is where the physical comes in, not to render my spiritual aspect useless but the truth is, we do have deposits from life experiences that we can’t pray away unless we address them. Nonetheless, pray for their souls to heal as they go through the physical healing while also involving God.
Finally, save a life from untimely death through suicide by showing love! Love doesn’t cost a thing.