NAPLES, Fla. — May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Fox 4 talked to a mental health expert about what it's like to live with depression, the warning signs, and how you can intervene to save a life.
“Depression is more of rooted in that feeling of sadness," Jessica Liria, the Community Outreach Specialist for the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health in Naples, said.
But more than just feeling sad, it's a feeling of being unable to escape that sadness. Liria said depression can come from trauma in our past.
“Even if it's just grief, or the loss of somebody that they once loved. When we don't allow our body that time to process, our brain and our body, the time to process, we get stuck. We get stuck in this place, and are not able to look towards moving past that," she said.
She said what makes depression even trickier, is that many times, it also comes with anxiety; 60 percent of people with anxiety also have depression. She said this means that the trauma from the past that's causing the depression can lead to anxiety about the future.
"And they're unable to be comfortable in the present," Liria said.
She said the most obvious signs that someone you love is dealing with depression are changes in sleep and eating.
"When somebody is incapable of sleep or getting way too much sleep, they can't get out of bed," she said. "Not wanting to eat at all, eating way too much. Sometimes eating can manifest into a coping skill of its own. And that's what helps people feel better, which, of course, we don't see that as a healthy coping skill.”
Other signs of depression include isolation and lack of interest in things they once enjoyed.
"We might actually start to see people taking more high risk decisions. So kind of lacking a little bit of care for their lives, or they put themselves in harm's way. That can include substance use,” Liria said.
She said substance use can make depression even worse.
Liria said the biggest warning sign that someone is depressed: thoughts of suicide. The rate of suicide is growing in our country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 48,183 people in the U.S. died from suicide in 2021. That's one death every 11 minutes. It says 1.7 million people attempted suicide.
“It takes someone sometimes, that that caring, compassionate, empathetic person, to say 'I've noticed these things, I have these concerns about these things,'” she said.
If you suspect your loved one is depressed and considering suicide, Liria said to show you care and you're here for them.
“We have to go into it very non-judgmental. We have to go into it respecting that person's experience and what their thoughts are," she said. "Also, be prepared for what they may say. Be calm, cool and collected so that they feel like they can trust you and actually open up. But offer hope, offer help.”
She said to also ask them what will make them feel better, or help them get through this. And don't give up.
"Have that conversation, but make sure that you're following up with that conversation and checking back in on them, continuing the conversation to maybe dig even deeper than next time," Liria said.
If you or someone you love is dealing with depression or thoughts of suicide, call the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health in Naples for free at any time: (239) 455-8500.