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How to recognise severe depression and help prevent suicide

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Talking about mental health often causes people to feel uncomfortable, either because of their lack of knowledge on the subject or the concern that they will say something wrong.

Once you leave home and surround yourself with more diverse people you will learn two important things:

1. There are a lot of people that suffer from a variety of mental illnesses.

2. This makes them no different to those that do not suffer from a mental illness.

While many people who suffer from mental illness seek help and successfully manage their illness, there are some who struggle to do so. This might be due to a lack of understanding of their mental health, or it can be due to a lack of resources and support. 

As today is Suicide Prevention Day it seems fitting to remind everyone that mental health problems can be incredibly difficult to deal with, and can sometimes lead to loss of life.

If anyone you know appears to be struggling with depression or any other mental health problem, the best thing you can do is speak to them and let them know you are someone who wants to listen and help. This is not always easy but it is undeniably essential, as those who feel alone are the most vulnerable to their illness. 

The first step to helping those you know is recognising the signs. Some are obvious while others are far more subtle, yet all are important for understanding your friend or loved ones mental health.

Below you will find a list of sudden changes you may notice in someone that suffers from depression:

- Too much sleep

- Not enough sleep

- Eating more

- Eating less

- No longer socialising

- Backing out of plans last minute

- Reckless behaviour

- Lack of interest in old hobbies

- Substance misuse

- Mood swings

The list can go on, but ultimately if you know someone well you will recognise changes in the things that they do.

So what happens if you notice these changes in someone?

Well firstly it is important to remember you are not a specialist (unless you have done years of training, and are in fact a specialist) and so you cannot just throw the word depression around. You can however, talk to them.

Ask them how they are feeling and mention that you have noticed some changes in their actions and behaviour. This will allow them to know that you do care about them, whether they are depressed or not. If they open up and talk about their concerns surrounding their wellbeing then it is always wise to suggest that they see a doctor.

You can offer to go with them, but it is important to let them know that you will support them in any way possible and that if they are not ready to see someone about it then you will also support them in this decision.

Be aware that The National Health Service believes it is vital you do not suggest ways to overcome feelings of depression to those who feel suicidal, as each person is different and this could have a negative impact on them. 

If you are concerned about someone you know, or are having suicidal thoughts yourself, it is important to seek help immediately.

In a case of an emergency call 999.

Alternatively you can call these helplines :

  • Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service or email at jo@samaritans.org.
  • Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK.
  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
  • Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn't have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information.
  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
  • Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.
  • NHS (non emergency): 111
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