Why are we so afraid to talk about depression, anxiety, or even substance abuse? These are all diseases of the brain yet we avoid talking about them like we avoid telling Donald Trump about his hair.
When my wife woke me up one night last year she told me that she felt dizzy, sick and that her chest was pounding. Here’s what I did NOT say: “Honey, just go back to sleep. I’m sure you’ll have a different outlook in the morning.” Instead, we jumped out of bed, got dressed and broke a few traffic laws racing to the emergency room where doctors discovered she had a heart arrhythmia.
Two years ago I came home feeling sick and suddenly began throwing up. I felt excruciating pain in my abdomen. My wife did NOT say to me: “Darling, there are a lot of people who are suffering way more than you are right now. Just try to snap out of it.” Instead, she ordered me to get into the car and she broke a few traffic laws racing to the emergency room where doctors discovered I had a kidney stone.
So why is it that when we notice a spouse, a child, or a colleague who is in the same sort of pain from sadness, worry or substance abuse – most of us are afraid to take action.
Think about this scenario -- you are walking by a colleague’s office and you notice he looks pretty pale. You stop and ask him how he’s doing. He says, “I feel short of breath and I have stabbing pains in my chest.” You don’t just walk on and say, “Hope you’re feeling better soon.” No! You call 911 right now. Because you recognize the signs of a heart attack. We all know the signs of a heart attack.
Same scenario but different symptoms -- you are walking by a colleague’s office and you notice he doesn't look well. You walk in and sit down. “How are you feeling, you look a little pale?” “Oh. I haven’t been sleeping well these past few nights and I just don’t have an appetite. I feel a little hungover today too.” You laugh it off and tell him you hope he feels better tomorrow? NO! You’ve just heard someone tell you that he is suffering with a serious emotional problem – could be depression, could be anxiety, could even be an addiction. So what do you do now? In the first scenario it was clear -- Call 911. But what about now. Do you know the signs of depression, anxiety or addiction?
That’s the problem. Most of us feel very comfortable talking to someone about a heart problem but we get all freaked out and weird talking about a brain problem. The heart and the brain are both organs of the body that can have a disease which left untreated have a fatal consequence.
I am now going to tell you how to become better informed. There’s two ways to do this:
You can google it! Well sort of – You can go to our website: www.wecarepeople.org and click on the Resources tab and scroll down to www.helpguide.org this is a wonderful site that is full of information about signs, symptoms and even tips on what to say and what not to say. You can also click on our Agencies tab and discover how many services are available right here.
Mental Health First Aid – is an internationally recognized 8 hour course we provide locally for anyone who wants to feel more comfortable reaching out to someone who might be experiencing an emotional difficulty. This course – just like first aid offered by the Red Cross – trains anyone (you don't have to be a therapist to help someone) on what to say and what to look for. Over 500 people in Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin counties have received the training and everyone who's taken the course loves it. Go to our website: www.wecarepeople.org and under the Initiatives tab click on Mental Health First Aid.
Look. Life throws stuff at us all the time. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. We all need a little help at times. Someone sitting down to talk, allowing us to open up even if it’s for a short while is such a gift. And we all have that ability to give someone a hand at a time when they might feel the load is just too much.
Don’t be afraid if the first response is not complete openness. It might take a little persistence, showing that you really do want to listen. And I am telling you that men need this most because men are just not used to talking about their feelings or having anyone reach out to give them permission to talk about their feelings. Yet men make up 95% of all completed suicides.
Recently two mothers called me asking for help. Their young adult children, one male and the other female had gone to seek help because they felt overwhelmed by intense feelings of worry, anxiety, and fear. Both of them were admitted to a hospital. These mothers called and asked me what they should do – it was their first experience with mental illness and it had struck close to home. I was so glad that they did. Both of these women reached out to their children with love and compassion. “Thank God your child is still alive and took the step to seek help,” I told them. Maybe there is a change happening in this generation of young people. Maybe they are beginning to accept that a disease of the brain is treatable just like any other organ of the body.
So quit being so weird about it!
There are lots of local resources.
Did you know about?