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depressions This is how you react correctly when a friend wants to harm you

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Thoughts of suicide or self-harm is often not the result of simple grief, but of depression. We give tips on what to do if someone in your environment is at risk.

From: Robin Köhler

Status: 01/20/2020 | archive

When a loved one is doing badly, there are a few things you can do: comfort, persuade or just hug. But what if the person is really struggling with depression, or even thinking about harming themselves?

Trigger warning:

This text deals with depression and suicidal ideation. Affected people or people who are potentially burdensome should not read any further. Instead, there is information on free and anonymous advice at the end of the text.

According to the German Depression Aid, more people died of suicide in 2017 alone than in the same period from drugs, HIV and traffic accidents combined. Suicide is one of the most common causes of death, especially among young people under 25. Psychiatrists often cite insufficiently treated depression as reasons. At the same time, it can be stressful and challenging when friends or someone in the family share dark thoughts with you or keep withdrawing. We'll show you how you can still help.

Don't ignore it, just ask

First things first: apart from a direct announcement that you want to harm yourself, there are unfortunately no one hundred percent warning signals. That is why Ulrich Hegerl, psychiatrist and chairman of Deutsche Depressionshilfe, appeals to gut instinct and common sense: "With some you notice that they are completely isolated, completely hopeless and desperate. Another clue could be that someone is his last Regulates things. In any case, you should ask if you notice such behavior! "

So speak openly and not avoid the unpleasant topic. "I would ask: What do you mean by that? Do I have to worry? Do you already have plans or have you ever been about to?" Says Hegerl. In this way you can find out more precisely how specific the suicide risk of your boyfriend or girlfriend is.

Make it clear to everyone: It is a disease

One of the biggest problems is still that depression is rarely treated socially for what it is: a disease! "Most of the people see depression as a reaction to loneliness, relationship conflict or workload. Very few realize that it is an independent illness," says Hegerl. External circumstances would also play a certain role. But for those affected, the environment can be as good as it wants: "Depression is looking for something negative in life and it always finds something. That then enlarges it and moves it to the center." As friends, you can be of great support, but don't forget: You cannot replace professional help.

Seek professional help

As for every form of illness, there are specialists and, in the case of depression, that is the psychiatrist. That is why the focus should always be on trying to get affected friends to seek professional help. Especially since there are often misunderstandings in families and friendships because of depression, Ulrich Hegerl warns: "You might think that the person concerned no longer loves you, they withdraw. They are too comfortable or they won't pull themselves together." The disease is the cause of the problems.

This is of course particularly relevant in dangerous cases: "If there is an acute danger to life, you have to help. Then you cannot watch someone take their own life, you have to call the emergency doctor," says Hegerl. This can be necessary, for example, when people have delusional depression. In other words: negative thoughts intensify so much that they are no longer comprehensible to others.

Fortunately, it doesn't always have to be the emergency doctor. Even if treatment by doctors makes the most sense, there are other helpful offers that you can recommend. One example is "U25", a free and anonymous online consultation that is financed by Caritas. Conrad Schröder is one of the voluntary consultants and, after completing a four-month training course, writes emails with those seeking help. He finds the offer from "U25" so valuable because it is completely anonymous: "If young people already have problems talking to their parents about certain things, we are often the first point of contact." At the same time, consultants like Conrad himself are still young and can empathize with people's problems. Therefore: Even if people with dark thoughts do not want to fully reveal themselves to you, they may do it in a different context.

Be patient and accept boundaries

Sometimes people don't want to be helped. And if there is no acute danger, unfortunately there are also limits to worried friends: "If someone vehemently refuses any help, one is also somewhat helpless. This also often applies to doctors," says Ulrich Hegerl from the German Depression Aid. The only option left here is to be patient, to bring up the topic again and again and to try to get the person to seek professional help. For example, you can offer to organize doctor's appointments or to go to counseling offers. Sometimes you need a lot of patience here, because you can't force anyone to undergo treatment.

Don't overwhelm yourself

It's hard to see how a loved one and friend suffers. And if you can help, you should do that. Nevertheless, it is important not to overwhelm yourself. The German Depression Aid therefore advises not to exceed your own limits and to do something good for yourself. In addition, consultants at U25 do not make any promises, as Conrad Schröder says: "I would put myself under pressure if I promised the other person by email, for example, that everything would be fine." In addition, some promises cannot be kept. For example, when it comes to life and death.

Do you have dark thoughts If you are unwell or if you are thinking of killing your life, try talking to other people about it. They can be friends or relatives. But there are also a large number of offers of help that you can contact.

The telephone counseling is anonymous, free of charge and available around the clock. The phone numbers are 0800/111 0 111 and 0800/111 0 222.

The telephone counseling service also offers a help chat. There is also the option of email counseling. Registration takes place - also anonymously and free of charge - on the website. You can find information at: www.telefonseelsorge.de

You can use the anonymous and free online advice service from Caritas, U25 here take advantage of

Further offers are also available here:

  • Knowledge, self-test and addresses on the subject of depression under www.deutsche-depressionshilfe.de
  • Germany-wide information hotline Depression 0800 33 44 5 33 (free of charge)
  • professionally moderated online forums for adults to exchange experiences www.diskussionsforum-depression.de and young people aged 14 and over www.fideo.de
  • Help and advice from the social-psychiatric services of the health authorities
  • Advice and exchange for relatives: Federal Association of Relatives of Mentally Ill People www.bapk.de

Broadcast: Pulse on December 20th, 2019. from 3 p.m.