By now, most people have read about the suicide of Broncos’ wide receiver Kenny McKinley. That someone so young (23) and so successful (professional athlete) could take his own life strikes so many as so senseless. We mistakenly assume that a person must be completely hopeless for depression to rise to the level of suicide. And we mistake outward success for inner happiness or contentment.
All accounts are that McKinley was a jovial, good spirited guy. With the exception of an offhand comment he made that he “should just kill” himself after his surgery, there seem to be no reports of any of the tell tale signs of deep depression, let alone suicidal ideation. One wonders how many of the signs may have been present, but not recognized.
Probably each and everyone of us has joked about killing themselves at one point or another. Of course, as someone who has tried to do just that, I usually cannot get away with that type of joke. But for the vast majority of people, such an offhand comment would raise no warning signals to others. Perhaps we should try not to joke about such things? I don’t know.
What we do need to do is better recognize the signs of depression ( maybe we need to be serious about that word, too) and especially the warning signs for suicide. I do not wish to rehash them all here, but rather touch upon a few. Take notice of changes in someone’s eating or sleeping patterns. When in emotional turmoil, a person will often have difficulty eating, some difficulty getting to sleep, and lots of difficulty getting up in the morning. Another indicator is when someone loses interest in things they normally show a great degree of interest in. This is part and parcel of an overall disengaging from the world, socially and emotionally.
Many of the other warnings are even more difficult to discern. Changes in mood can be difficult to spot unless they are so dramatic as to be painfully obvious. Jokes about dying- where do we draw the line between offhand comment and expressing an inner desire not to live? It all can be quite blurry.
Luckily, there are tons of resources regarding depression and suicide on the internet. If someone you know might be depressed or suicidal, it’s best to be proactive. Contact their network of friends and family to see if others have noticed any changes or are concerned. Ask your friend if s/he is depressed- you’d be amazed at how many people just never bother to ask. That question can open the door to a wealth of information about your friends mental well-being. And always, ALWAYS, err on the side of caution. Your friend may be temporarily angry with you for making too much of a non-emergency situation, but s/he will come to realize that you simply love them and do not want to see them hurting.
Again, as I posted before about my own struggles with suicide and depression, if you have any questions or need any help, feel free to comment here. I promise not to publish the comment. And to try my best to help.