10 things NOT to tell someone who is suicidal (and what you can say instead)

There is nothing as dreadful, as scary, as heart-wrenching as hearing someone say the words,

“I want to kill myself”

These are words you do not want to hear, at all. What do you do from that point? How do you help? What do you say, and more importantly, what shouldn’t you say? As scary as this scenario is, hearing this words is a subtle gift that a friend who is struggling gives. It is their way of crying for help, it is their way of giving you an opportunity to help in their journey, as hard as it is. Your response is critical as it could either be an doorway to healing, or it could be the end as they know it. Granted, it is an emotional moment and you may not be sure how to respond. Below are 10 common (cliché, need I add?) responses that only make it harder for suicidal people to speak up and ask for help.

NOTE: While these responses/questions are generally deemed to cast judgement on the affected, a number of people may respond in the positive. Secondly, in as much as you can help by been present, it is important to get medical attention immediately. Do not hesitate to do so. Check out this page that has suicide crisis helplines in Kenya.

 

  1. “Suicide is for weaklings”

The truth of the matter is, by the time someone is getting to the point of struggling with suicidal thoughts, they have already gone through so much. By the time one is searching on how to die by suicide, all rationality is gone and that statement is a cry for help. Saying suicide is for weaklings invalidates their feelings and only causes one who is struggling to keep to themselves – with dire consequences.

Instead: You can let them know you care instead. Assure them of your love and compassion. Be present. Stay with them. Offer a hug – it creates a safe space for someone who is suicidal

 

  1. “It is all in your head – snap out of it”

This is another common response given from an ignorant point of view. Depression and suicide are conditions that affect the mind. The mind does get sick, just as the physical body does. Do we tell people suffering from diabetes to snap out of it? There you have it. Additionally, people who are not aware of mental health illnesses have the warped view that suicidal people are doing it for ‘attention’ – which is absolutely wrong.

Instead: It is better to admit that you may not understand what they are going through, but that you will offer to be present and seek help for them.

Read More: Support Group Therapy for moms with PPD

 

  1. “You should be grateful. There are people who have it worse”

I hate to burst the bubble, but someone who is suicidal has likely thought about that already – and it feels like they can never measure up. This only adds to their brokenness because, while they are well aware they ought to be grateful, their mind just cant reconcile that with the utter hopelessness and emptiness that they feel.

Instead: Show empathy. You may not understand, but that doesn’t give you permission to be insensitive.

 

  1. “Suicide is selfish. Think about your family/kids/loved ones”

Suicide is NOT selfish.

Suicide is NOT selfish.

And there’s a reason why. Suicidal people genuinely feel worthless and absolutely hopeless. They feel like there’s nothing to leave for, and worst of all, feel like a burden to the very people you are asking them to think about. The mind convinces them the world would be a better place without them. Telling them suicide is selfish not only invalidates their struggle, it also makes it less likely to ask for help again.

Instead: Ask how to help, find out what they need and check up on them constantly.

 

  1. “But your life is not that bad, how can you think of suicide?”

Truth is that there are invisible scars that suicidal people carry which you may never ever get to see. The pain is underneath – whether it is getting molested by an uncle, getting raped by a work colleague, losing one’s family or even a still birth. On the outside, it may seem all okay, but the pains and ache remain etched in their minds forever. Asking how someone can think of suicide speaks of disbelief and judgement, not empathy.

Instead: sometimes, all you can do is listen and be present.

Read More: 5 celebrities who have struggled with PPD

  1. “You are not praying enough”

I can’t stop saying it, but, this is simply belittling someone’s struggles. It is likely that the depression/ mental health condition that has gotten them to the point of been suicidal has not allowed them to be able to pray in the first place. Telling someone they have not prayed enough/ do not have faith is just judgemental.

Instead: Consider affirming your love and support to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Taking a minute can save a life.

 

  1. “You will go to hell”

Regardless of one’s religion, telling someone they will go to hell when they are suicidal only enhances the feeling of isolation and loneliness (which in many cases, only pushes them over the edge). In any case, the judgemental attitude does not show any compassion or empathy.

Instead: It helps to assure a suicidal person that their thoughts are not permanent (even if the person believes that they are), and then to offer a listening ear without any judgement. This offers hope and communicates empathy.

 

  1. “ Don’t do anything stupid”

This is a very dismissive response for the simple reason that it takes away from the importance and the urgency of someone’s struggles. Often, such a statement only alienates a person even more. You may be worried/ concerned – rightly so, but whatever you do, don’t dismiss it as simply stupidity.

Instead: You may ask, “I have heard you mention suicide, and I am concerned about you. Are you safe? I want to reach out to you, know I am here for you”

 

  1. “How’d you want to hurt me like that?”

First, this is not about you. Secondly, it is likely that someone who is suicidal knows that their absence is going to hurt you and their loved ones. It already makes them feel terrible. Getting them on a guilt trip is counterproductive, and often exacerbates the alienation.

Instead:  You could say, I am sorry that you are struggling and hurting. But I will be here for you. You matter. You mean a lot (to me)

 

  1. Aaaand finally, one of the most cliché statements: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

At face value, this statement ‘sounds’ right, but a closer look reveals it is a fallacy, a popular one at that. First, the statement seems to suggest that suicide is a ‘solution’, and also belittles one’s problem as merely temporary. What of chronic mental health disorders, lifetime diseases and emotional scars?

The bottomline: When someone opens up to you about suicide ideation, it means that they have found a safe space in you. Responding harshly not only makes it harder to speak up, it also alienates them further. Granted, you may feel disappointed, hurt, embarrassed, even betrayed – but how you respond can make a big difference.

PS: This article was inspired by my last post which you can read here. I am, by no means, a health expert, but I struggled with suicide ideation and thoughts of harming my baby when I had Postpartum Depression. Some of the above statements are things I was told when I shared about my thoughts – and I switched off. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel alienated in their struggle with depression, so I put up this list with insight from the following websites:

Speaking of suicide

Purple Persuasions

The Mighty Site

 

PS: Do not struggle alone, reach out for help. Use the contact page or get in touch through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

 

 

5 Celebrities who have opened up about their struggles with Postpartum Depression

Chrissy Teigen opens up about her PPD journey after Luna

Maternal mental health is an important part of public health, and a major challenge across the world. According to WHO, 13% of women who have just delivered will suffer some form of mental disorder. This figure is known to be higher in developing countries where the statistics paint a grim picture of 19.8% of women affected after child birth. In extremely severe cases, many moms die by suicide following unaddressed mental health challenges.

It is important to mention that postpartum depression (PPD), one of the most common perinatal mood disorders, can affect anyone including celebrities. Contrary to popular belief, the risk factors associated with PPD do not exempt the rich and famous. A number of celebrity moms have gone public with their PPD stories. I am an advocate for celebrity moms creating a shift with this because it is a loud message to the ‘ordinary’ mom that motherhood may not always be a glowing bubble.

Read More: ‘Free PPD Test’ – The Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS)

Adele

Adele opened up about her struggles with Postpartum Depression in an interview with Vanity Fair. She admits to having bad PPD and been so scared. She made a point to add that it helps one become a better mom to cut themselves some slack and take some time off. In her words,

“My knowledge of postpartum—or post-natal, as we call it in England—is that you don’t want to be with your child; you’re worried you might hurt your child; you’re worried you weren’t doing a good job. But I was obsessed with my child. I felt very inadequate; I felt like I’d made the worst decision of my life . . . . It can come in many different forms.”

Gwyneth Paltrow

American actress and singer,Paltrow has admitted to struggling with PPD following her son’s birth in 2006. In an interview with People, the mom of two confessed to feeling nothing, and having no maternal instincts for her son. She added that, while she harbored no thoughts of harm, she did not experience the blissful doting emotions either.

“I couldn’t connect, and still, when I look at pictures of him at three months old, I don’t remember that time.”

Fortunately for Paltrow, support from her husband helped her on the journey to recovery.

Read More: WE celebrated with PPDKenya support group cycle 01!

Kendra Wilkinson

In an interview with OK!, Kendra, a reality TV star and mother of two spoke in detail about experiencing PPD after her son’s birth. Her account shows that PPD does manifest in different forms, and can be a very subtle thing. For many affected moms, there is little energy to do the most basic of daily tasks, and this includes showering and combing hair.

“After giving birth, I never brushed my hair, my teeth, or took a shower. I looked in the mirror one day and was really depressed.”

Chrissy Teigen

Chrissy Teigen wears many feathers on her hat: model, TV host, best -selling cookbook author and mother. It is the latter that has, in 2017, endeared her to many moms following her admission that she struggled with PPD after giving birth to her daughter Luna. In her candid interview with Glamour, Chrissy wrote,

“I had everything I needed to be happy. And yet, for much of the last year, I felt unhappy. What basically everyone around me—but me—knew up until December was this: I have postpartum depression. How can I feel this way when everything is so great?”

She goes on to add some of the symptoms she had:

“Getting out of bed to get to set on time was painful. My lower back throbbed; my ­shoulders—even my wrists—hurt. I didn’t have an appetite. I would go two days without a bite of food, and you know how big of a deal food is for me… I also just didn’t think it could happen to me.”

She admits to never leaving the house and spending days on end on the couch, with endless bouts of spontaneous tears before she was finally diagnosed with PPD and postpartum anxiety. Chrissy got professional help, medication and had a support system especially from her man, John Legend.

Chemutai Sage

Locally, Chemutai Sage, a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist went public about her struggles with PPD. In an interview with MumsVillage, the singer mentioned realizing something was amiss when her daughter was about 5 months. During this period, she would experience crazy emotions which she often associated with her child. She kept thinking to herself,

“If I didn’t have the baby…”

In the MumsVillage show, Sage shared that she did realize these were not commonplace emotions, something which got more pronounced with her inability to leave her room for days – there was simply no joy in doing so. Sage did get help, and had a strong support system that helped her in her recovery journey.

Read More: Blackish addresses PPD in Season 4

This post is a reminder that, if you are struggling with PPD, you are not alone. By speaking openly about this form of maternal disorder, celebrities amplify the voices of many moms who may be going through the motions in silence. Remember too, that you can get in touch (via the contact page) if you are wondering where to get help or need someone to talk to.

 

Celebrating with PPDKenya Support Group Cycle 01

The past week has been a series of amazing events for the PPD-Kenya team. Among the highlights of the week that we would love to share is the culmination of the first cycle of our support group therapy. We began the cycle on Saturday 13th January 2018, and over the ten weeks that followed, we have held meetings every other Saturday. Our resident psychologist has tirelessly offered of herself to help the moms in their recovery journeys, and we are so glad she is part of our team, alongside our founder Samoina who is a PPD survivor herself.

We recall in vivid, the emotions that peppered our first meeting that Saturday as the moms poured out their journeys and shared their experience with Postpartum depression (PPD). We cried together, we talked, we held hands, we hugged… we began the road to recovery, and oh what a beautiful journey it has been.

Saturday 10th March 2018 marked the last of five sessions, what has been a truly rewarding and humbling experience. Seeing the progress that each of our five moms has made is a reminder of why we began these support group meetings in the first place. They are at a better place than they were when they first came for the meetings. We continue to remind the moms that PPD is treatable, that there is hope, and even with this hope, recovery can be a long journey.

Even though the sessions for the first cycle have ended, we continue to check in on the moms and have scheduled a meeting after 8 weeks to keep abreast with their journeys. In line with our mission to raise awareness and reduce stigma associated with PPD by providing psychosocial support for moms going through PPD, we are hopeful that this start is a step in the right direction as far as Maternal Mental Health in Kenya is concerned.

Below are some of the photos that we took on Saturday, with cake, lots of it for such a sweet moment. One of the lovely moms brought us cake too, and we couldn’t be more grateful for such a wonderful gesture. Congratulations to the moms of PPD-Kenya cycle 01!

PS: We will be posting details on the second cycle of the PPDKenya support groups soon.

PPS: We do not post any photos of the moms because we respect their privacy, and because one of our core values is confidentiality.

Lastly, Blueberry Cake by Shanna Elle Bakers

 

 

The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)

The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)

Postpartum Depression (PPD), same as Postnatal Depression (PND – which by the way, I have found is used a lot in the UK) is one of the most common mental health disorders in women. Statistics show that between 11 and 20% of women who deliver every year will experience symptoms of PPD. That’s about 2 in every 10 women are going to get PPD. One of the tools that has been developed to identify women who are at risk of perinatal (that is both antenatal and postpartum) depression is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). EPDS is an efficient screening tool that consists of 10 questions listed alongside a set of values. Below are the guidelines for using the EPDS.

  1. The mom-to-be/ mom is asked to tick the answer that describes closely how she has been feeling in the previous 7 days.
  2. All questions must be answered.
  3. Caution should be exercised to ensure that answers are not discussed as this could skew the results. That is, answers should only come from the expectant woman or mother herself.

NOTE: The EPDS is not a diagnostic tool and must be used alongside clinical assessment. For this reason, it should not be used for self-diagnosis. If you go through this set of questions and suspect that you may be suffering, consult a doctor to ensure you get professional help. Secondly, one of the questions (#10) is on suicidal thoughts and must be answered before the report is submitted. If the item is checked, a follow up should be made so as to ascertain the level of risk and make the necessary arrangements for mother and child.

Read More: Why is a PPD support group important?

As you are pregnant or have recently had a baby, we would like to know how you are feeling. Please check the answer that comes closest to how you have felt IN THE PAST 7 DAYS, not just how you feel today. 

Here is an example, already completed. 

I have felt happy:

 [ ] Yes, all the time 

 [X ] Yes, most of the time 

[ ] No, not very often

[ ] No, not at all

This would mean: “I have felt happy most of the time” during the past week. 

Please complete the other questions in the same way.

 

In the past 7 days:

  1. I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things

[ ] As much as I always could

[ ] Not quite so much now

[ ] Definitely not so much now

[ ] Not at all

 

  1. I have looked forward with enjoyment to things

[ ] As much as I ever did

[ ] Rather less than I used to

[ ] Definitely less than I used to

[ ] Hardly at all

 

*3   .I have blamed myself unnecessarily when things went wrong

[ ] Yes, most of the time

[ ] Yes, some of the time

[ ] Not very often

[ ] No, never

 

  1. I have been anxious or worried for no good reason

[ ] No, not at all

[ ] Hardly ever Yes

[ ] sometimes Yes

[ ] very often

 

*5.  I have felt scared or panicky for no very good reason

[ ] Yes, quite a lot

[ ] Yes, sometimes

[ ] No, not much

[ ] No, not at all

 

*6.  Things have been getting on top of me

[ ] Yes, most of the time I haven’t been able to cope at all

[ ] Yes, sometimes I haven’t been coping as well as usual

[ ] No, most of the time I have coped quite well

[ ] No, have been coping as well as ever

 

*7.  I have been so unhappy that I have had difficulty sleeping

[ ] Yes, most of the time

[ ] Yes, sometimes

[ ] Not very often

[ ] No, not at all

 

 

*8.  I have felt sad or miserable

[ ] Yes, most of the time

[ ] Yes, quite often

[ ] Not very often

[ ] No, not at all

 

*9   I have been so unhappy that I have been crying

[ ] Yes, most of the time

[ ] Yes, quite often

[ ] Only occasionally

[ ] No, never

 

 

*10.The thought of harming myself has occurred to me

[ ] Yes, quite often

[ ] Sometimes

[ ] Hardly ever

[ ] Never

 

SCORING

QUESTIONS 1, 2, & 4 (without an *)

Are scored 0, 1, 2 or 3 with top box scored as 0 and the bottom box scored as 3

QUESTIONS 3, 5¬10 (marked with an *)

Are reverse scored, with the top box scored as a 3 and the bottom box scored as 0

Scores

0-9: Scores in this range may indicate the presence of some symptoms of distress that may be short-lived and are less likely to interfere with day to day ability to function at home or at work. However if these symptoms have persisted more than a week or two further enquiry is warranted.

10-12 : Scores within this range indicate presence of symptoms of distress that may be discomforting. Repeat the EPDS in 2 weeks time and continue monitoring progress regularly

. If the scores increase to above 12 assess further and consider referral as needed.

13 +: Scores above 12 require further assessment and appropriate management as the likelihood of depression is high. Referral to a psychiatrist/psychologist may be necessary.

Item 10: Any woman who scores 1, 2 or 3 on item 10 requires further evaluation before leaving the office to ensure her own safety and that of her baby.

 

Resource Material

Source: Cox, J.L., Holden, J.M., and Sagovsky, R. 1987. Detection of postnatal depression: Development of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. British Journal of Psychiatry 150:782-786.

Screening for antenatal depression with the Edinburgh Depression Scale

Blackish addresses Postpartum Depression in Season 4

One of the things we believe in at PPDKenya is awareness and advocacy for Postpartum depression and maternal Mental Health. So, when a popular TV Show, no less on ABC, does that, anyone in the maternal mental health heaves a sigh – or relief, of excitement and certainly, of the hope that this ushers in a new era where TV shows will not be afraid to tackle mental health and highlight the numerous intricate complexities thereof ” class=”wp-more-tag mce-wp-more” alt=”” title=”Read more…” data-mce-resize=”false” data-mce-placeholder=”1″ />

(PS: We are late to the party because this particular episode aired in late 2017, but it is never too late to talk about PPD, now is it?  )

The TV show in question is Blackish, a family sitcom that brings to light the challenges of a modern black family living in a predominantly white neighbourhood. In S04E02 that highlights PPD, Rainbow Johnson, who is fondly referred to as Bow (and played by the phenomenal Tracee Ellis Ross), is seen to be a tad bit anxious. Having just given birth to her fifth child, she fusses a lot over the heat in her house. We also get to see her caught up in an emptiness of sorts, staring at the baby monitor and wondering if her new born son is still breathing (something that many moms who have gone through PPD can attest to – a perpetual fear of death seems to hang over).

There are a couple of instances where Bow is also seen sobbing endlessly, seemingly over nothing. This is another symptom that characterises PPD. Most affected moms are weepy and irritable, even when they cannot point out exactly why. Another instance that stood out is when, staring into the empty space, Bow pours over tea into a glass. This remarkable change in behaviour, from the usually boisterous Bow, to a weepy mom is picked up by her mother-in-law, Ruby Johnson (played by Jenifer Lewis). According to Ruby, however, ‘This is what new motherhood looks like… She (Bow) is just weak.”

Again, the show brings to the front the stigma associated with PPD where struggling moms are deemed to be weak, or seeking for attention. Dre, Rainbow’s husband (played by Anthony Anderson) realizes that Bow has postpartum depression, but at first, she is denial saying, “I don’t have postpartum. I am a doctor and I would know.” In the end however, she admits she is struggling and is willing to get help.

In the end, this is an incredibly powerful show that steers conversation on PPD right where it matters. Not only does it show the challenges a family faces when mom is suffering from PPD, it also addresses the issue of medication in a sensitive manner that gives perspective. It is worth watching for anyone who has had/ is struggling with PPD, or for anyone interested in one of the most common perinatal mood disorders.

Catch the preview here on their fb page

 

 

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