Suicide Awareness Month - Depression
I often wonder, what if Keven stayed on his meds and never started using heroin, meth, fentanyl? Would he still be here today?
Keven suffered from mental illness. Often when people hear the term “mental illness” they think of schizophrenia or picture a person who’s literally lost their mind.
But the most common form of mental illness is depression followed closely by anxiety. Keven had Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD, OCD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. He may have had other issues as well, it was hard to get an accurate diagnosis because he continued using drugs and that skewered the results of diagnostic tests.
The problem, as I see it, is that people don’t think depression or anxiety are all that serious. I mean, we all feel those things from time to time and then we get over it and move on. Depression is a normal reaction when something happens to cause it, and so is anxiety. But for someone with clinical depression and/or anxiety life becomes a dark place and it can be debilitating. That’s how it was for my boy.
There are 5 types of depression:
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder
And, 5 types of anxiety:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)
(there are links below that go into detailed descriptions of each type of depression/anxiety)
I also suffer with depression and used to have a severe case of Social Anxiety Disorder. For both Keven and me it started early in our childhoods. I never treated mine until I was in my 30’s when Keven’s teacher convinced me to take him to a psychiatrist who suggested antidepressants. He was only 9 years old. My own doctor had been bugging me for years to try them. I didn’t want to medicate my child but I decided to start taking Lexapro (I think, or was it Zoloft?). When I saw the huge difference it made in my life I agreed that Keven would benefit from it.
I’ve been taking my meds ever since (now I take Wellbutrin and Effexor) but Keven didn’t like the side effects so stopped taking his around age 12. They had caused weight gain and he was being bullied. Between the end of 6th grade and the beginning of 7th he grew about 4 inches and all the extra weight dropped. He entered Jr. High feeling and looking good.
I’d been warned that Jr. High school was one of the toughest times for kids and parents alike. Not for us, he blossomed and I relaxed a bit because for once I wasn’t worried about him. He had friends, joined a wrestling team, and didn't hate school. Unfortunately by the time he was 15 his world was getting dark again and he discovered weed and “party drugs” which led to his first time using heroin at age 17. That was the beginning of the end for my son. Heroin was the answer to all his problems until it became the reason for all of them.
When I first started using antidepressants there was a stigma associated with it. People I knew were ashamed to admit they were taking them. I know this because I was my usual “open book” self and shared that I was taking them. Many people said, “me too!”. Today the stigma has lessened but there are still people suffering in silence because they don’t think they need to take meds for depression or the side effects scare them. Most side effects go away after the initial month or so. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that needs to be fixed, they work for people that need them.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering from long term depression I urge you to seek help. Not every person who’s depressed ends their own life, but every person who ends their own life is depressed.
There are tons of online resources online including online affordable therapists. I’ll share some links below. Talk therapy won’t cure clinical depression or anxiety, but I think it helps. I’ve seen therapists off and on all of my adult life.
I belong to a Facebook group for parents who have lost children to suicide - new people join everyday. Its shocking how many young people take their lives. Is it preventable? Yes, sometimes it is, but not always. Being aware of those who are suffering around us is the first step in helping someone, I will write more about that next week.
As always, thanks for reading here!