How Can You Tell If They Are Unwell?

I am so fortunate to have had burnout, I am so lucky to have gone into depression, I am so blessed to have had thoughts of killing myself. That sounds crazy, doesn't it?

When asked about what it was like going into the deep, dark, lonely, frightening depths of despair, my answer is always the same - "I hated it beyond belief and now glad that it happened to me." I no longer take life for granted, things don't just happen to other people, they can happen to any of us.

A common question I hear from parents during my presentations is "How can I tell if my son or daughter is suffering from depression?"

Psychology tells us that the person will become tired, listless, have trouble sleeping, no longer interested in what they previously enjoyed, increased use of alcohol or drugs, won't care about their appearance, won't smile, express feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, lose confidence, become irritable, and avoid conversations.

That is an accurate list. There are a couple of other signs that you might also look for;

  • They get busy - trying to run away from their thoughts, they won't be able to sit still for too long, they keep moving in an attempt to consume and control their negative thoughts.
  • They become isolated - shutting themselves off from their friends, no longer wishing to leave the sanctuary of their bedroom, wanting to shut out the world.
  • They won't look at you - they avoid eye contact at all costs.
  • They begin to look pale - when in the depths of despair, blood goes to the centre core to protect the vital organs.

For me, the greatest sign that someone is in the depths of darkness is the lack of socialisation - no longer will they talk to anyone nor will they look at your face when you talk with them. Their brain is telling them to do things to protect themselves - "Go and hide, go and sleep, don't talk to anyone."

Their brain tells them to do the opposite of what they should do.

So, what should you do to help your loved one;

  • Look after yourself first - you must be in a good place before helping others.
  • Don't try and fix it - you can't force someone to get better, they must want to get better.
  • Reassure them - let them know that you are there, that you love them, that you will do everything for them, in their time.
  • Be gentle - on yourself and on them. Guide them to seek professional help and offer to go with them if they want you to.

Fear the worst? - if you fear they might be suicidal, you don't have to ask them directly “Are you thinking of killing yourself” if you don’t want to or can’t. Tell them you have been reading about suicide, the terrible stats, and that you read this post. Ask them if they have ever thought about suicide.

Bottom line, when in the depths of despair, we do not know what we are doing nor do we think about the consequences of our actions. Our rational brain has long gone, we are now in survival mode, we do not understand logic.

If in doubt, get them help. Let's talk!