by Edna King
Each of us, no matter what, is created in the image of God and is lovable and worthy of care, but those of us in the grip of depression too often feel alone, isolated and a burden to others. In the pit of depression, we think we are a burden to those we love, and God’s love for us may seem impossible. Our feelings of guilt and unworthiness can slide into hopelessness. In the spiritual struggle that depression brings, the darkness of despair prevents us from seeing that God has hope and joy for us in this life and in the life to come.
At FLM we care about our families, and we know that many of our families are struggling with issues such as anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Like cancer, suicide can happen in all kinds of families. Wonderful, spiritual, “good” families, messy families, the people next door, your family- mental illness and/or suicide can happen in any of our families or among people we know and care for.
When my daughter had cancer, her little bald head brought sympathy and kindness from total strangers. People understood she was sick and showed compassion for her. Would she have gotten as much sympathy and help if she were a depressed teenager who was acting out with hostility towards others as a way of dealing with her own inner pain? Another teen might be showing completely different symptoms- withdrawal from friends and activities — creating a cycle of sluggish inertia. We cannot always see mental illness, like we see a child’s bald head, but it is real and there are signs.
The obvious signs of mental illness don’t usually draw compassion and caring- most people reflexively pull away when someone is showing signs of mental illness. Is the person hurting, or are they just being hostile by choice? Truly depressed people can find themselves not only feeling isolated but actually being isolated because the behavior caused by their depression has put such a strain on relationships. It’s scary to deal with someone else’s depressed or dark thoughts. Despondency can vary from the lull of inertia that many of us feel from time to time to being unable to get out of bed. How do we recognize the danger signs of depression and have the strength to walk towards someone in our family who is struggling, rather hope they grow out of it?
Some people who struggle with depression mask it very well.They hide depression until they can’t anymore, and then there is an emotional outburst or much more tragically, a suicide and everyone around them grieves and is shocked because they “seemed so happy”.
Even when well hidden, there are often signs.We feel it is important to provide our families with information and insight to help our parents and teens be aware of this devastating and heart-wrenching way to die, in the hope that it can help. Being aware of resources- including spiritual, medical, and psychological resources- helps us help others.
Thank you to Dr. Dora Soublis for creating this list of resources for us as a community. Please set aside some time to check out these resources and share some of them with your teens as a springboard for open, honest and healthy conversations with them. Here is a link to the list: