If someone is depressed and suicidal, how can we help them?
Transcribed by: Raji Nachiappan
Question: If somebody feels depressed or suicidal, how do we help them?
Answer: If people feel that we can non-judgmentally understand them, then people open up. The biggest burden, in actuality, is the burden of a mask. Sometimes, when we have to carry a heavy bag, we may consider it a burden. Yes, it can be. However, when we wear a mask out of fear of judgement by others, we conceal ourselves, our struggles, our problems and fears. Such a mask is a much bigger burden. Of course, to some extent, we all have lower desires and we need to discipline them. This is required in a civilised society. However, if certain issues are troubling us and we have nowhere to share that, then that becomes a burden.
If we can somehow give people the faith that we are not going to judge them, then they can open their heart. Once they open, then we can direct their thoughts in a particular way and offer suggestions. However, what can happen is that people can live in denial. Or sometimes, they specify they are depressed and make a show of their depression. In cases where people make a show of their depression, they are in denial of the possibility that they can come out of it. They have accepted that this is how they are. They think that if they try to change but are unsuccessful, then people may judge and condemn them. As a result, they stop trying itself.
In essence, people need a sense of connection with others. There are some areas in which people feel safe to open up. For example, if we happen to be living alone in a locality with a high crime rate and if someone knocks on the door, we do not immediately open the door. We might have a look through security window, or we might just open the door slightly to have a look. In the same way, people through their words open their hearts a little bit. If at that time, we can act in a non-judgemental and helpful way, then they will open their heart. At that time, especially, if we can connect them with some spiritual wisdom, then even if we are not there, the spiritual wisdom will be there for them.
Therefore, first we try to establish a personal connection with them and then try to give them a spiritual connection. If somebody is very seriously depressed, then it is best to seek help from someone who is trained. If they are ready to take that help, then we can try to be the medium in between. However, we cannot ourselves become too caught in somebody else’s world. When we are trying to help others, we can’t help them unless they want to be helped. The door to personal change can only be opened from inside. Unless there is a spark for change from their side, we will only be beating ourselves. Unfortunately, it will only hurt us. For example, if a car does not start, the driver usually asks for help. People from outside push the car. Driver from inside steers the car and together they get the car started. Suppose, if people from outside are pushing the car but the driver has kept the brakes pressed, then there is no point in pushing.
Therefore, sometimes people are just not in a position to be helped. And in trying to help them we may get agitated and we may get depressed. Hence, we have to be careful that we protect our own health and ensure we do not get too emotionally entangled in other people’s issues. When they are ready to be helped, we should be there to help them.
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