Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medalist, announced he recently dealt with severe depression at the peak of his athletic career. His story is statistically very common, but similar accounts of severe unhappiness are often not widely reported in the media. However, more information is coming out in the press about mental health/illness and the stigma surrounding it appears to be changing. You may know someone who suffers from a mental illness but you could possibly be missing the signs in your friends or family. One of the most common illnesses is depression.
This lack of attention by those closest can be dangerous for the person who has the disease of depression. If you don’t now what to look for and your loved one has not been to a doctor recently, they may be severely impaired without anyone being aware. Problems they may be going through could range from minor (lack of energy) to the extremely dangerous (suicide threats or actions). Below are critical indicators to look for in your important relationships.
Watch your unhappy / sad / emotional friend for:
• a lack of interest in their normal passions
• low energy
• withdrawal from social situations
• poor sleep or appetite
• hopelessness / helplessness / apathy
• frequent mood fluctuations
• comments about death or dying
• excessive anger
If several of these signs are present, talk to that person and encourage them to see a doctor. If there are threats of harm to themselves, go to the ER as soon as possible with them. They may not go without your help and others may not take their threats seriously. People who are depressed cannot make good decisions and often do not see how badly they are doing. People who attempt or actually do commit suicide do not think of the repercussions for their family and friends. They are too unhappy to think clearly. It is important that you encourage them to get help.
Finally, take your gut instincts or intuition about this person seriously. Trust that you know this person well and you may be the only one who convinces them to see a doctor or go to the ER.