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Its the Happiest Time of Year! Not for All of Us.

November 30, 2012

This isn’t a typical post for us here. But it is an important topic, especially at this time of year.

This can be a difficult time of year for people and college students in particular. Final exams are looming, along with final papers and projects. It is time to think about enrolling and paying for next semester. Students are getting ready to go home and sometimes that transition back  home isn’t smooth and easy. The students have changed by being at college, and their family has been changed by the students absence. Living together again can sometimes be difficult.  And the holidays bring their own “special” set of stresses to life- parties, family get togethers and sometimes unrealistic expectations.

Consider these facts from Emory University:

  • Every year, 864,950 people attempt suicide, which means 1 person attempts suicide every 38 seconds.
  • Each year, 34,598 people die by suicide, an average of 94 completed suicides every day.
  • There are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses per year.
  • One in 10 college students has made a plan for suicide.
  • Suicidal thoughts, making plans for suicide, and suicide attempt are higher among adults aged 18 to 25 than among adults over the age of 26.
  • Lifetime thoughts of attempting suicide are reported to occur among 5 percent of graduate students and 18 percent of undergraduates.
  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 25 to 34 and the third-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24.

Depression is a major cause of suicide. Again statistics from Emory;

  • Depression is a common mental health disorder, with the 18.8 million Americans suffering from depression every year. In addition to being common, depression is a risk factor for suicide.
  • Two-thirds of people that die by suicide are depressed at the time of their death.
  • Among those that have major depression, the risk of death by suicide is 20 times greater than those that are not depressed.
  • Treatment for depression is very effective; however, less than 25 percent of people with depression receive adequate care.
  • Unwillingness to seek help is another risk factor for suicide.

How do you know if someone is depressed?

Here are some signs from the Mayo Clinic.

Depression symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite — depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Irritability or angry outbursts
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration
  • Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things aren’t going right
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it’s obvious something isn’t right. Other people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

Depression affects each person in different ways, so symptoms caused by depression vary from person to person. Inherited traits, age, gender and cultural background all play a role in how depression may affect you.

Depression is a “real” disease. It’s causes are chemical, genetic and environmental. People don’t “snap out” of depression any more than they can “snap out” of being diabetic.

The Mayo Clinic has a good, understandable and helpful discussion of depression, its causes, symptoms and treatment. Please take the time to visit their site, here.

I’m not a therapist. I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m not a specialist in mental health issues, but I do know this:

Please don’t be afraid to talk to someone if you think you are depressed. And if you think a friend or family member may be depressed – talk to them. It may feel awkward to talk about, but it is vital that you set your personal comfort aside and talk about it.

People who are depressed may not have the energy or ability to do things that seem simple to those of us who are not depressed. Making an appointment to see a therapist may be too much to do. Physically getting to the appointment may be too difficult. Be prepared and willing to make the call for the depressed person. Be prepared and willing take them to the appointment. If you are unable to do this, find someone who can.

What if someone is suicidal? This is a scary situation. But again, please don’t let your discomfort stand in the way of helping someone.

From the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, here are some warning signs:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

Here is some advice from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline about what to do:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don’t dare him or her to do it.
  • Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
  • Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

It is not easy to ask someone if they are thinking about killing themselves. It is awkward and frightening. But please ask. Again, you may need to make the phone call to a suicide hot line or your local hospital. You may need to take the person to the hospital.

If the person is already seeing a therapist or counselor, contact them. They can help the person get the help they need. If you don’t think the person can wait to see their therapist or is in imminent danger, take them to a hospital or call 911.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. You will be able to talk to a trained counselor in your area who can help you figure out what to do and where to go for help. I suggest you put this number in your cell phone. I have.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many good  mental health resources available on the web. Here are some I use.

Half of Us  A resource for college/young adults

The Transition Year:  A resource for college students and their parents

The Balanced Mind:  A resource for families with a specific site for young adults, Flipswitch.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Mayo Clinic: Information about depression and other mental illnesses

The National Institute of Mental Health: Information about mental illness

I hope you never need to use this information. But if the statistics from Emory are true, there is a good chance that you or someone you care about will be affected by depression or another mental illness. Knowledge is power. Knowledge saves lives.

A blessed and healthy Advent to you and all whom you love…

Cross posted at True North Campus Ministry.

 

The Running Gag in the Gospel of John

September 29, 2012
English: Probably an image of Jesus from St. J...

English: Probably an image of Jesus from St. Johns gospel in a miniature from Vukan’s Gospel, end of the twelfth century, by some held to be an image of the Evangelist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At Westminster Reads we are reading our way through the Gospel of John five chapters at a time. One of the advantages of reading the Bible several chapters at a time is that it becomes easier to see the links, connections and themes present in the text.

One thing I have noticed is, in John’s gospel people routinely misunderstand and misinterpret Jesus’ words. It happens over and over again. After a while I started to chuckle at the persistent miscommunication. It’s not  Abbot and Costello’s’ “Whos on first“, but at the same time most of us tend to ignore the humor that is present in the Bible. The author of John is a skilled writer. The persistent word play and miscommunication John’s author uses to tell us about Jesus are no accident.

The word play begins in chapter one when John’s disciples leave John and follow Jesus. John points Jesus out to his disciples and two disciples immediately leave John and start following Jesus. Jesus turns around, sees these two following him and asks, “What do you want?”(1:38,NIV) They say they want to know where Jesus is staying. It’s an odd response, isn’t it? Jesus replies “Come and see” (1:39). Now the reader knows these two men will not only spend that night with Jesus but will spend the rest of their lives following him one way or another. Jesus response, “come and see” means more than the disciples suspect. The entire passage (1:35-51) is several conversations that function on multiple levels.

Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus (3:1-21) is a well known example of Jesus saying one thing and his listener misunderstanding. Then in chapter four, Jesus talks about water metaphorically with the woman at the well who, initially at least, hears literally. Jesus asks the sick man at the pool, “Do you want to be made well?” and he and we are prompted to consider what it means to be made well (5:1-15). In chapter six, Jesus talks about bread and life and the people misunderstand. In chapter 7, where Jesus is from, his origin, is a source of confusion. The story of the man born blind and given sight by Jesus (chapter 9) is full of misunderstanding and misinterpretation. And we could list more example than these, but you’re getting the idea by now.

What is going on? People seem to be routinely confused by Jesus- by what he says, by what he does, by who he is. John’s gospel is full of  soaring language, and extended theological discourses by Jesus. John tells the story of Jesus in a way that fully explores the theological dimensions of Jesus life, death and resurrection.  And, oddly, John’s gospel is also full of verbal misdirection and word play. Why does John tell us about so many people, stranger and disciple, who misunderstand Jesus?

Part of what John wants to tell us is that Jesus is not who people think he is. He is unexpected and surprising. Jesus takes common images and re imagines them. Jesus takes common situations and transforms them.  We as modern readers chuckle and shake our heads at the confused disciples but, we might want to stop and ponder our own ideas of who Jesus is. What do we misunderstand? What do we misinterpret? Are we missing Jesus’ re imaging our world? Are we missing transformation?

The running gag in the Gospel of John may be that we- for all our 2000 years of theological reflection and experience-  are not much smarter than the disciples. Jesus is still surprising his followers.

I’d like to know, what do you think?


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