Don’t wait until it’s too late

Seven years ago this month, my dad killed himself. He was 46.

Seven years ago this month, National Depression Screening Day began.

It may have been too late for my dad, but it’s not too late for someone else.

On Oct. 9, NKU’s Health Counseling and Prevention Office will offer free screenings to anyone who may feel overwhelmed with their classes, family and everyday life.

According to the National Mental Health Association, 19 million people suffer from depression or anxiety disorders. Statistics from the Surgeon General show that in any given year, more than 54 million Americans have a mental disorder. The scary part is, fewer than 8 million seek treatment.

While my dad tried to do a good job of hiding his illness from the family, he still showed signs, and could have been helped with earlier intervention.

Unfortunately, we were too uneducated and afraid to recognize the evidence until we discovered him after his first attempt – a crumpled heap on the floor, the result of a drug overdose.

Looking back, the signs were obvious. He was barely sleeping or eating, his mood would dramatically fluctuate, and he tried to “make up for lost time,” but never seemed to enjoy himself.

Sometimes he would tell my mom that he knew that he would never live to the age of 50, and sometimes he would talk as if that day was the last day of his life.

The last time he left our house, he appeared clearly distressed and repeatedly told my siblings that he loved them.

The goal of National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) is to educate and help students talk confidentially about depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Even if you don’t believe that you are suffering from depression, educate yourself for the future.

Our society holds the stigma that people who suffer from mental illnesses are “crazy,” and that suicide is a “selfish” act. Through education and NDSD these beliefs can be eradicated one person at a time. The reality is that those with mental illnesses suffer from diseases that are just as ravaging to their bodies as cancer.

Those who complete suicide do not commit “selfish” acts; they have become so tired of fighting physical battles that their mentality is affected, and they believe that the only way of “fixing” the situation is by ending their lives.

My dad had a very stressful childhood, grew up too fast and never learned how to utilize the life he had. We discovered that after he died, he had threatened to kill himself years before, but no one took him seriously. Like many people who commit suicide, he reached out for help but never received it.

As students in college, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by grades, projects, work, family and outside influences. It’s not necessary to have a ton of things to bog down your mood – sometimes it’s the weather or a chemical imbalance. Thanks to 9/11 and a slow economy, everyday anxiety can become a problem.

For those who are afraid of attending a person-to-person screening, the Health Counseling and Prevention Office has included the personal screening online, which will provide immediate feedback as well as helpful resources.

Even if you’ve been in a “funk” or have been feeling “blue” for a few days, it never hurts to know your resources.

Don’t learn the hard way, like I did. Ask questions now, not later.

There may not be a later.

For more information, click here: NKU Health, Counseling and Prevention Services