Do you think you are stressed out?

By Lovette Ajayi

Sometimes it feels like we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, and since we are not Atlas, we may fall under that heavy burden. At one point or another, everyone gets overwhelmed with life in general, with stressors coming from every angle, whether external or internal. School, family, relationships and other personal issues are the culprits of our strain, and each individual factor alone might not be enough to break us. However, when combined, they can be a catalyst for depression.

Clinical depression is not just the temporary feeling of gloom that we all experience from time to time. It is a serious illness that affects many, if not all, aspects of one’s life: mental, social and physical. In turn, individuals affected may sink to lows unimaginable to those not in that situation. It can be hereditary, but otherwise, depression can be triggered by any variety of things, such as the death of a loved one, and it can hinder one’s capabilities to function. Nevertheless, the emotional distress can become unbearable, and may lead to an individual’s contemplation of suicide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death of Americans, and among people ages 15-24, it is the third. These alarming numbers just further tell the tale of another public health issue that is largely preventable. Over 70 percent of all people who commit suicide had shown some clue as to their intentions. These signals may not always be blatant, but we must do our best to be in tune with those close to us, because it may make a difference in the end. Clues could be when someone is having general difficulty in many areas of his life and having serious trouble coping. Many people might even be explicit in their feelings (i.e. “I feel like killing myself”), and although we would like to think they might not be serious, we must not take any statements implying suicidal thoughts jokingly.

Often, when people are having suicidal thoughts, they change their behavior. This is different from the lack of appetite or sleep that we all experience when we are generally stressed. It can be a dramatic change of behavior, characterized by loss of interest in even the most basic activities of functioning. If someone is suffering from depression, even a sudden lift of spirits may be a worrisome sign because it may indicate that the individual is relieved at the thought of an “escape” from everything.

Keep in mind that these are some objective signals, so they are not error-proof. However, it is better to be safe than sorry, because we cannot take any warning signs lightly. They might be cries for help, and if we see them, we cannot ignore them. If you or someone you know is depressed, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. This may be in the form of just talking to someone about your feelings. There are many resources available to you if you don’t feel comfortable talking with those close to you. The University of Illinois Counseling Center has a staff ready and willing to talk to students about ANY concerns and problems. It is a great resource for everyone, paid for by our health fee, and you can make an appointment with any one of the trained counselors and psychologists. They are only a phone call away (333-3704), and ready to help you through whatever crisis you are going through. The Crisis Line (359-4141) is also available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Talk to someone about your problems or your worries about someone close to you being suicidal, and many lives could be saved.

We cannot prevent all tragedies from happening, but if we have the power to prevent even one, then please let’s exercise it. Suicides affect not just one person, but a whole connected social system, and it is preventable to a certain degree, if we get the right help, at the right time. However, if you are one of those people who is directly affected by someone taking his own life, please don’t blame yourself because there is only so much we can do. Take care.