Recognise the signs of severe depression in order to help a friend or mentee address a serious issue with positive reinforcement and care.
Alcohol abuse and depression are linked. "Research shows that depressed kids are more likely to have problems with alcohol a few years down the road. Also, teens who've had a bout of major depression are twice as likely to start drinking as those who haven't." – WebMD.
Be their light during dark times
The cause of depression and anxiety varies considerably. It could be an unfortunate upbringing, the current environment shaping a child, or even genetics. If you suspect a loved one is displaying signs of depression and/or suicide, there are ways you can help. The most important step is to seek help from either a professional or a guardian (teacher or a mature mentor).
According to LifeLine Johannesburg here are some signs to look out for:
Regularly talking or joking about suicide: Often, a person considering suicide will talk about death and killing themselves in a joking manner.
Depression: A growing sense of hopelessness as a result of clinical depression should serve as a serious warning sign.
Preparing for death: In many cases, a person starts giving away valuable items to loved ones and even says goodbye either in person, in writing or via an online post.
Self-criticism: Listen to what a person says. If they are constantly saying things like "I'm useless" or "I should give it all up", it could be a sign of something serious.
Personality changes: A person begins to isolate himself-/herself and no longer enjoys the things they used to. They are also aggressive, irritable and overly negative.
Hygiene and appearance: As people become more depressed and overwhelmed, they start to neglect hygiene and their personal appearance. Loss of appetite is also a common warning sign to look out for.
Sudden improvement: In many cases, a sudden improvement in mood and mindset could be a serious warning sign. This could sometimes indicate the person has chosen a date on which to commit suicide and feels the pain will soon come to an end.
Obsessing over death: Whether it’s through music, writing, or images—if a person seems overly preoccupied with themes of death you should consider talking to them to find out more.
Self-harm: Often, a person begins to use or increases their use of drugs or alcohol or starts injuring themselves deliberately. While this isn’t always a sign of suicidal tendencies, it should be taken seriously.
How you can help
Don't wait for them to bring it up, simply start the conversation by asking if they need help with anything and if they are okay. Let them feel comfortable enough to trust you with sharing their deeper thoughts and feelings.
Try not to interrupt and preach. It won’t work. You have to listen and pay close attention to what they are saying and how they are saying it. Reassure them that you are their confidant.
Take it from there and seek help. You can start with the local SADAG suicide crisis helpline: 0800 12 13 14 or 0800 567 567, or SMS: 31393