• Alexa Oprea

Mental Illness: How You Can Help


With the recent events in the HRM, students may be wondering how to support friends going through hard times. Proper education and knowing the warning signs are how you can help and support those who need it. The facts are shocking: more than 150,000 youth each year attempt suicide, approximately 11 people take their lives every day in Canada.

Thanks to campaigns and foundations such as Bell Let’s Talk, Partners for Mental Health, and Kids’ Help Phone, we now have the means to discuss, and prevent youth suicide. Whether your friend is just having a hard time at home, or more serious issues are present, this article will give you all you need to support them the best you can.

If you’re suspecting depression:

Warning Signs

  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns

  • Deep/constant sadness

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

  • Dramatic changes in mood

  • Agitation

  • Self harm

If you’re suspecting suicide (warning signs are almost identical to depression):

Warning Signs

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

  • Dramatic changes in mood

  • Agitation

  • Self harm

Noticing one or more of these signs can be an indicator for depression, or suicidal thoughts. The most important thing to do when suspecting self harm/suicide is to tell someone. A parent, a teacher, perhaps a school nurse. Do not attempt to handle the situation on your own. The next step to ask your friend how they are feeling, try not to tiptoe around the topic of suicide, if you are not comfortable approaching them, this may be where your trusted adult can help. Below are a few examples of potential questions:

  • Are you thinking of suicide?

  • Have you been feeling left out or alone?

  • Have you been feeling like you’re a burden?

  • Do you feel isolated and or disconnected?

  • Have you been drinking or taken any drugs or medications?

  • How have you been sleeping?

  • Are you feeling more anxious than usual?

Always encourage them to be open and honest with you, be a good listener and maintain their trust. Try to comfort them in any way possible, but make sure to never use the term “at least”. This may let the victim feel invalid, even worse. For example, if your friend’s parents are getting divorced, saying “At least you’ll get two Christmases!” is absolutely not what they want to hear.

The final way to help prevent suicide/self harm is to remove means that might be used to complete such an act. Getting help is the most important way to aid someone; a trusted adult will be necessary in these final steps.

For more information, visit:

http://www.suicide.org/how-to-help-a-suicidal-person.html

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/helping-a-depressed-person.htm

http://kidshelpphone.ca/Teens/home.aspx?gclid=CIuFwpCY2skCFQ8taQodn5kKeg