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How To Connect with a True Support System in a Disconnected World

Today’s technology gives us the power to connect with just about anyone. So why are we feeling increasingly like we have no one to talk to?

Mental illness can spiral out of control if not properly treated.

This month America witnessed the tragic suicidal deaths of famed handbag designer Kate Spade and storyteller-chef Anthony Bourdain. Two of the world’s most famous faces had one thing in common—they both suffered from severe depression that ultimately ended their lives.

It’s estimated that 122 Americans die by suicide each day. Among 15-24-year-olds, it’s the second leading cause of death, and almost 10 million adults in the United States reportedly experienced suicidal thoughts in the past 12 months. What’s probably most frightening is that when it comes to suicidal behavior, we all believe we’d know the signs if we see them. So what are we missing?

Real Signs That Are Hard to See

Depression and mental illness affects millions, and this is just one of the reasons it’s so important to have a healthy, encouraging support system. There are the signs we’ve all been taught to look for—talking about wanting to die, expressing hopelessness, or discussing feelings of being a burden to others. But are there other signs?

Surrounding ourselves with people we trust can help us see the light when we our suffering through our darkest moments.

Surrounding ourselves with people we trust can help us see the light when we our suffering through our darkest moments. Advertiser's Image: Recovery Resource Group

What we know about suicide is that no matter how hard we try to see the obvious signs, we still miss the message. It’s become increasingly difficult to connect with people: long hours at work, dizzying family-life schedules, and our never-ending addiction to all things portable,--where the majority of all human communication occurs staring at a small computerized window--makes it hard to tap into the true feelings of people we know and love.

In a recent interview for CBS, Gayle King interviewed 5 survivors of suicide who each shared their stories—what they all had in common was that they felt they could not reach out for fear of being judged or ridiculed. One woman admitted that coming forward about feeling suicide cost her a job.

What Can I Do to Help?

The truth is that sometimes we, in fact, are the sign. Our troubled friends and family are looking for us to show them through word and action that, as one of the interviewees put it, “it’s ok not to be ok.” It’s our job as the support system in someone’s life is to make sure the people around feel like they can trust us to reach out. Too often, we reserve judgement for those in turmoil, rather than just giving them a shoulder to lean on.

The time to start building our support system is before we need it. We can help by connecting now with those who have similar interests and goals. We also need to be willing to make others feel empowered enough to tell us how they’re really feeling. Fully committing to being a friend means standing strong in the face of challenge and carrying another when she is unable to carry herself.

Behind every empowered person is someone who fully supports her. In an addiction recovery group for example, those who have triumphed over addiction offer unlimited time and space to ensure the person still struggling with her addiction demons has a fighting chance. Being surrounded by women who support our aspirations makes our journey worthwhile and fulfilling, not to mention the additional boost we receive when we inevitably face the day we feel like we just can’t keep going.

Ultimately, the greatest thing we can do for someone is to be a positive influence in her life. Talk to her now about her goals, and reach out to other peers who may be able to help. Encourage her to talk about what’s important to her and be supportive. Offer advice, answer questions, and most of all, just listen. The more we become the person in someone’s life she feels she can trust, the better chance we have of fighting back against those invisible signs that take life from so many we love.

If you are someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, or just need to reach out and connect, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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