Help Yourself, Help a Friend

ACT — Acknowledge, Care, Tell

  • Acknowledge you may have symptoms of depression or suicideIf you think you might be depressed or are thinking about suicide, you need to do something about it! Don’t ignore the warning signs, or think they will just go away. If your friends are reaching out to you and expressing their concern, don’t push them away. Talk to them! Talking openly about your feelings, even if they entail thoughts of suicide, is one of the most helpful things you can do. It is an important first step toward you getting better.
  • CARE about yourself. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, people might tell you—even well-meaning adults—to “snap out of it” or “just give it time,” Don’t listen to them! Depression is a serious illness that requires treatment from a medical professional. It is not your fault, and nothing you should feel ashamed about. You need to advocate for yourself and get a trusted adult involved.
  • TELL a trusted adult. In order to get better you must identify a trusted adult such as a parent, counselor or teacher that you can go talk to. It helps if you have a friend who is able to go with you. If you find yourself alone and your situation is serious, don’t wait until the next day. You can always call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for immediate assistance. You can also text HOME to 741741 (Crisis Text Line). These toll-free lines are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by trained professionals who can help you.

As a reminder, get a trusted adult involved as soon as possible!

Here is what you can do:

Talk to your parent(s)/guardian(s). Tell them how you feel. You might mention that you’ve been reading up on depression and, based on the symptoms you are having, you think that might be what’s going on with you. Ask your parent(s)/guardian(s) to arrange for you to meet with a counselor or therapist to find out how you can feel better.

If you feel like you’re not getting anywhere with your parent(s)/guardian(s), talk to your school counselor. Counselors are there for you, and their goal is to help you work through this, especially when it is affecting your schoolwork. Your counselor also may be able to help you when it comes to talking to your parent(s)/guardian(s).

If you are not comfortable with or able to talk to a parent/guardian or school counselor, identify another adult in your life who can help. It is critical that you talk to an adult, so if you choose not to talk to a parent, guardian, or school counselor, explore your other options to identify the adult who you are most comfortable telling. Your friends can help you with this. Remember, it will probably be difficult to have this discussion but a trusted adult can and will help. Some ideas of trusted adults—other than parents/guardians and school counselors—are as follows: Doctor, Religious Leader, Teacher, Coaches, Friend’s Parent, Relative (Aunt or Uncle).

When people have depression, it affects their emotions and mood. It twists their way of thinking. Depression can also affect people physically, even causing body aches and pains. Not everyone who is depressed shows it in exactly the same way, though.

Depression affects a person’s thoughts in such a way that he or she doesn’t see that a problem can be overcome. The depression puts a filter on the person’s thinking that distorts reality. That’s why depressed people don’t realize that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem in the same way that other people do. A teen with depression may feel like there’s no other way out of problems, no other escape from emotional pain, or no other way to communicate a desperate unhappiness. But this isn’t true. There is another way.

How can I recognize if I’m depressed or possibly suicidal—or if one of my friends is?
It is normal for a student, who might be facing pressure and stress at school or from friends and family, to feel sadness, anger, or even depression. But sometimes when the sadness doesn’t go away or it turns into hopelessness—or if small problems seem too much to handle—you need to take a closer look. Depression can affect many areas of a person’s life and outlook. Intense feelings of sadness, emotional pain, or irritability may ultimately lead to suicidal thoughts.

You may have heard that people who talk about suicide won’t actually go through with it. That’s not true; in fact, it is one of the leading myths about suicide. The truth is, almost everyone who dies by suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” or “I can’t see any way out”-no matter how casually or jokingly said-may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

What are some of the warning signs of someone at risk for suicide?

  • Preoccupation with death: talking, reading or writing about suicide or death
  • Making indirect statements about death or suicide, such as “My family would be better off without me,” or “What’s the point of living?”; conveying feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Making direct statements about death or suicide, such as “I’m going to kill myself” or “I wish I were dead”
  • Putting one’s affairs in order (e.g., visiting people to say good-bye, giving away possessions)
  • Engaging in risky behavior (e.g., purposefully putting oneself in danger, increased use of alcohol and/or drugs)
  • Neglecting one’s appearance and hygiene
  • Obtaining access to guns or other means of hurting oneself
  • Withdrawal from friends and family and/or dropping out of school, athletic or social activities
  • Major change in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Dramatic mood changes

A specific event, stress, or crisis—like sexual abuse, bullying, break-up or a death in the family—can trigger suicidal behavior in someone who is already feeling depressed and showing the warning signs listed above.

REMEMBER: Not everyone recognizes depression when it happens to someone they know or love.
Depression can be difficult to understand. Little or no energy, a key sign of depression, is often mistaken for laziness, lack of motivation or an unwillingness to try. On top of this, depression does not always manifest as “sadness.” In teenagers, it often looks like anger or irritability. Some people believe, wrongly, that depression is just an attitude or a mood that someone can just shake off. It’s not that easy.

Sometimes, even people who are depressed don’t take their condition seriously enough. They might feel they are weak in some way, or that they are disappointing others because they are depressed. Not only is this attitude incorrect, it can be harmful if it causes people to hide their depression and avoid getting help. Occasionally, when depression causes physical symptoms (like headaches or other stress-related problems) a person may see a doctor. Though well-meaning, sometimes even a doctor may not recognize depression in a patient particularly if the physical symptoms are the primary focus.

Here are some of the things people notice with depression:

  • Negative feelings and mood. Depression involves feeling a negative, low mood for weeks or more. Someone with depression might feel unusually sad, discouraged, or defeated. He or she may feel hopeless, helpless, or alone. Some people feel guilty, unworthy, rejected, or unloved. Any or all of these emotions can be part of a depressed mood. Depression doesn’t always cause people to feel mostly sad, though. For some people, especially teenagers, depression manifests as irritability, anger and/or frustration.
  • Negative thinking. When somebody has depression, it can cloud everything. The world looks bleak, and the person’s thoughts reflect that hopelessness and helplessness. This can make a person think things will never get better, that problems are too big to solve, that nothing can improve the situation, or that nothing matters. People with depression tend to have negative and self-critical thoughts. They may believe they are worthless and unlovable — even though that’s not true. Depression can cause someone to think that life isn’t worth living. That can lead people with depression to think about harming themselves or about ending their own life.
  • Low energy and motivation. People with depression may feel tired, drained, or exhausted. They might even move more slowly or take longer to do things. It can feel as if everything requires more effort. People who feel this way might have trouble motivating themselves to do or care about anything.
  • Depression can make it hard to concentrate and focus. It might be hard to complete schoolwork, pay attention in class, remember lessons, or stay focused on what others say.
  • Physical symptoms. People can feel depression in their bodies as well as their minds. Some people have an upset stomach or loss of appetite. Some might gain or lose weight. Some people notice headaches and sleeping problems when they’re depressed.
  • Social withdrawing. Because of feelings of sadness and low energy, people with depression may pull away from friends and family or from activities they once enjoyed. This usually makes them feel more lonely and isolated. That can make the depression and negative thinking worse.

Taken from