Did You Know there was a National Suicide Prevention Week? Did You Know, You Already Missed it?
10 Ways to Overcome Depression
Did you know our ‘oh so accepting’ Nation, has a National Suicide Prevention Week? Well in case you missed it, don’t feel bad. A lot of people did. National Suicide Prevention Week was Sept. 5-11th. Mental illness is still to this day one of the most common illness’ that effect our nation, yet still remains one of the least talked about.
There is so little information about mental illness that it carries a heavy stigma around anyone who is suffering from conditions like anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, ADHD, etc. – making it difficult for anyone with these conditions to seek help and medical attention.
Nearly 20 percent of young people who are between the ages of 20-24 contemplate or attempt suicide every single year. Suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst people between the ages of 15-24, and the second leading cause of death in college students ages 20-24, according to 2014 data collected by the CDC. Though, this issue gets little attention.
College students are dealing with mental health issues at some of the highest rates in decades, according to a growing body of research about young adults’ emotional wellbeing. Are schools always equipped to help them through emotional despair?
Since high school, I suffered from depression, and I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know how to deal or cope with my mental instability until my 20’s, when I was clinically diagnosed with acute depression. Through my own mental health journey and meeting others with similar, relatable issues, I’ve come to realize this doesn’t make me an outcast. This actually makes me pretty common. In fact, census residential data found the population estimate for ages 18 and older translates to 57.7 million people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Too bad the media doesn’t promote National Suicide Prevention week like they do other awareness months. I guess it would make since though that suicide prevention week is in September since this month is National Self-Improvement month…but you probably didn’t know that either. Yeah, that’s not really promoted well either. In spirit of Self-Improvement month and Suicide Prevention Week here’s a little list of things I like to do to keep my mental health on track:
1. Get to know yourself – not isolate yourself: What do you like to do when you have a moment alone? I bet you can’t even answer that, can you? It’s important to spend time with yourself just like a new friend you were trying to get to know. Many symptoms of depression come from simply not knowing what makes you happy as an individual, but the only way to know yourself is to have good quality alone time. Read a book, take a bubble bath, journal out your thoughts and ideas – do something productive by yourself, but also be aware to not spend too much time by yourself. If you notice yourself avoiding phone calls, losing interest in activities and people, or hiding out from the world, this is called isolation. Psychological experiments have been done on the effects of isolation and social deprivation, and some of which had to be called off due to the extreme and bizarre reactions of those involved. Of course isolation to these effects are in extreme cases, but too much isolation to any degree may have some not so great results.
2. Get plenty of sleep: Sleep is a major factor when it comes to depression, but some people may not realize how their bad sleeping habits are effecting them. Did you know your brain has a chemical reaction for every emotion that you endure? Did you also know that your brain releases the same chemicals for when you’re depressed as for when you’re tired? Meaning, your brain actually cannot decipher the difference between sadness and just being sleepy. Staying out all night and pulling all-nighters’ while surviving off of Starbucks and Red Bull is what many college student become a victim to. It is recommended that the average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep, which can also positively affect your work ethic and your ability to concentrate. So, a lot of times when we think we’re sad, or depressed, or in a bad mood, or simply can’t concentrate, we actually just need a nap.
3. Meditate: Mediation proposes a challenge, if you are new to it, but it is good to challenge your brain. It’s odd to be alone with your own thoughts at first but once you’ve gotten used to it, there are a wide range of benefits that you can take advantage of. Meditation has been proven to increase the ability to focus, enhances self-acceptance, and increases memory retention – which are all struggles for many college students. To properly meditate, start off by sitting up in a comfortable position, calmly close your eyes, and take deep breaths. Once you feel a since of relaxation, allow your mind to wonder and enjoy the personal experience. A study, from the University of California, made with patients with past depression, concluded that mindfulness meditation decreases ruminative thinking and dysfunctional beliefs. Mariah Davis, a third year criminal justice major here at the university said she has struggled with anxiety and depression herself. When asking her what ways does she cope and counteract these feelings she says, “Meditation is one of the for sure things I know I can do to make me feel at ease again. Sometimes I meditate on a single thought and focus on just one thing, or sometimes I think about nothing and allow my mind to clear out for the time being.” She’s right. According to a study done by the University of Connecticut, meditative practices can be used to treat certain illnesses, particularly in nonpsychotic mood and anxiety disorders, and this was published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
4. Do something that helps other people: There’s tons of news out there that shape people out to be, well – terrible. But truth is most people aren’t that bad and a lot of us do genuinely need help. Helping out someone in need helps you forget about what’s got you down and puts the focus on someone else for a while. Giving back can help give you a since of purpose, which internally feels great! Not to mention, whoever or whatever it is that you’re helping, they’ll genuinely appreciate you. There are many charitable organizations and events around the area that you can indulge in to start giving back. Make a day out of it, and bring a friend!
5. Find something you love to do, then do it: Have you ever heard the term, “find a hobby”? While some may say it in a derogatory way, they’re right. Sometimes it does the soul good to have a hobby. Having an active hobby reduces stress. Some of my favorite hobbies include drawing and cooking. When I’m able to find time to do these things, I’m not thinking about the pressures of school and it offers me an opportunity to just take a break. Hobbies are associated with eustress. Eustress is still stress, but it is the positive type of stress that makes you feel butterflies in your gut or makes your heart race when you’re excited. These feel good endorphins can last with you for hours at a time, leaving you feeling happy and accomplished. If it is the feeling of loneliness that’s got you down, you can find groups and/or classes that relate to your hobby and through there, it is easy find people you have something in common with and feel connected to.
6. Cultivate supportive relationships with family & friends: Turning to family and friends can help you feel loved and appreciated. While it may seem scary to reach out to someone, they can offer you an incredible amount of support you never knew you had. It’s also just good to have someone looking out for you. Going to social events and surrounding yourself with like-minded people can elevate your mood and generate positive energy. Even if you don’t feel like it, still hang out with family and friends to have face-to-face human interaction with people you trust.
7. Stay Clear From Negative Thoughts: When you think negatively about yourself, those thoughts can slowly turn into actions. Having low self-esteem can cause you to pull away from society and can produce poor coping mechanisms such as drug use or impulsive behaviors. A way to counteract negative thoughts about yourself, is to write them down as you have them. Then, take a step away from it for about a day or two and read it out loud back to yourself and ask yourself, “how would you feel if someone said those things to your best friend, your mother, or better yet – how would you feel if someone said those things about you behind your back?” It is a little bit different when you put negative thoughts into perspective that way. Think less harsh about yourself to allow your stress to not beat yourself up. Remember, it pays off to not be so hard on yourself.
8. Watch a funny movie/show: A laugh a day keeps the doctors away. Laughter is not only fun, but it is healthy for you. Laughter increases the brains endorphins which promote an overall feeling of well-being. When you laugh, you instantaneously feel happy as your body associates smiling and excitement with the emotion, happiness. There are even professionals out there who are laugh therapist who practice laugh therapy. Yes, it is true – laugh therapy. "The definitive research into the potential health benefits of laughter just hasn't been done yet," says Robert R. Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation, but studies do show people who have a more positive and humorous attitude show less signs of depression and overall better health.
9. Exercise & eat right: Eating a balanced diet is essential to keeping your mood on the positive side. Having a bad diet doesn’t just have physical effects on your body but it also has psychological effects as well. It’s proven that eating more greasy foods can actually lower our energy levels, leaving us feeling tired, slumped, and moody. Tons of sugar can cause us to be hyper active, then suddenly crash only after a few hours. Consuming large amounts of sugar at once has the same chemical reaction to doing harmful narcotics such as, cocaine, which could cause an unhealthy addiction. It’s important to try to stay away from these types of foods as they can over time cause very harmful side-effects. In addition, exercise promotes similar feel good endorphins such as laughter after your workout. Getting your blood running can quickly boost your mood and allows you to sleep better at night, which will help you get those recommended seven hours.
10. Seek help from a professional: There’s nothing wrong with reaching out for additional support if you’re dealing with symptoms of depression. That is what the professionals are there for and trained to do. Therapists and psychologists can help dig up some emotional destress that you were once avoiding and can further help treat you if you’re diagnosed with a mental disease. Professionals work closely with you to assist you if you need medication and they can keep you in touch with emergency crisis lines if you are ever in a depressing time of need. Keep in mind that depression, anxiety, OCD, bi-polar disorder, or any other mental illness is in fact an illness and disease and should be treated as such. If a doctor told you, you had diabetes or heart disease, would you ignore their recommendations or medical care? Any mental illness should be treated just the same.
“I see students in my office everyday who suffer from different forms of depression and anxiety, and they all think the same thing – that no one is like them or they feel like no one will understand what they’re going through. But in reality, most college students go through some form of depression during their time in school,” says Shana Cuffe, therapist and counselor from UC’s Counseling and Psychological Services. Many colleges do not promote their mental health services adequately, making stress seem unmanageable. Though, some schools have been revamping their counseling services on campus to help put an end to the rising numbers of campus suicides in recent years.
I know first-hand that depression can seem overwhelming, but with the proper help and positive coping skills, you can overcome it.