Bill DeMonte is a doctor of clinical psychology and volunteer clinician with TakeThis.org. He works in the Seattle area with people who have chronic health issues and chronic pain. He is always trying to include technology and games to make changing habits more engaging. On weekends, he helps run a group to assist geeky parents to come together for board games and role playing games.
How can someone with suicidal thoughts deal with them in a healthy way?
The first step and most important step for people who are dealing with suicidal thoughts is to make sure that they are sharing the thoughts with a trained mental health professional. Suicidal thoughts can be scary when they happen so if anyone is worried about thoughts they are having there are places they can contact 24/7. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available. People who are more comfortable texting instead of talking can contact the Crisis Text Line. If you reach a point where you wonder if you should contact one of these lines, the answer is always yes.
Thoughts of suicide are usually a symptom of other problems. Someone might think, ‘I feel completely alone and suicide feels like the only way to stop that feeling.’ We think like this when our brains need to come up with a quick solution for problems we do not feel equipped to handle. In the long term, we need to gain the skills that will make us ready to handle those problems. In the short term, we may benefit from using protective reminders of our family, friends, or any other thoughts we can use to remind ourselves why we shouldn’t follow through.
It’s also important to constantly remind ourselves that just because we have a thought, we don’t have to act on that thought–just like how we don’t have to eat every piece of candy we come across just because we think they look delicious. Remembering that thoughts don’t have to be acted on can really take away some of their power and scariness.
What goes into a good support system for someone with mental health issues?
Mental health issues or not, everyone needs a support system, and we all need similar kinds of support. The most helpful way I’ve seen this described is that people need 4 different types of support:
- Informational – We all need people that we can turn to for advice, knowledge, and suggestions. Even if we can use a search engine to ask most of our questions, the people we know can help us identify the results that will help us most.
- Emotional – It helps to have people who can show us that they care, nurture us, and listen to us when we talk about our problems.
- Tangible – During stressful times we often need direct assistance from others. We may need help with things money, rides to job interviews, or home-cooked meals–support that may seem less profound than emotional support, but can make as big a difference in our lives.
- Companionship – Even if we don’t discuss anything important, we benefit from having people who will share in activities or just be present with us. This might be as simple as playing a round of Smash Brothers together or knocking out a quest or two in an MMORPG.
We don’t have to get all of these from the same people, but having each of those four types of support makes a big difference. Folks who are coping with mental health issues can often feel isolated, so having people who can help with each of these things creates a safety net that will last even when times get tough.
What are some good ways to support a friend or loved one who is dealing with depression?
The best way to start is by asking that person what they need. Depression can look very different in different people, and someone’s needs can also change over time. Most of the time, people have an idea of what they need in a given moment. If you’re willing and able to answer their request, then you can walk away knowing you supported them in the best way possible.
When we want to support someone with depression, the most important thing is to know our own strengths and weaknesses. Look at the four types of support listed above and figure out which you can be great at—then figure out which ones you’d find irritating to provide. Let’s say you are a very reliable and organized person, but you are uncomfortable talking with others about their feelings. In that case, you could offer to give your loved one a ride to their doctors’ appointments, offer to pick up groceries, or take them to their local games store instead of trying to have a long heart-to-heart conversation. If we stick with what we’re good at, we will be able to help our friends and loved ones consistently for a long time. That’s more important than trying to be everything to them and wearing ourselves out.
Take This is an informational organization. The resources we provide are for informational purposes only, and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional. For more information about these resources, please visit our website.
Feature Image Credit: Disney/Pixar