The tragic death of the Wales football mamager, Gary Speed, last weekend brought depression into the limelight.
Now I don't intend to speculate on any individual case, but some of what I read online over the next few days both encouraged and upset me because I think it generalised too much. 'Talk to someone' was the general mantra being bandied about the social media. Now I have no argument with this, CBT and counselling are widely and successfully used in mental health treatment and the Samaritans do a fantastic job. It would be wonderful if everyone with depression could confide in a friend or family member and be gently pointed towards the doctor as a starting point for timely and appropriate treatment.
But real life isn't like that. In real life a person who is clinically depressed or experiencing other mental health symptoms may internalise their pain and confusion to such an extent that they are unable to open up to anyone. In real life a seriously depressed person may be clinging onto everyday life with such success that their true condition is not obvious to even close family and friends. Most of us have an impression of a clinically depressed person as being unable to get out of bed and unable to function, but it isn't always like that. In real life depression can cause paranoia, even psychosis, and can be part of another disorder. In real life medication handed out readily by doctors can, in rare cases, actually make the depressed patient suicidal. And there are significant waiting times to see a psychiatrist on the NHS even after a referral has been made.
So yes, if you suspect someone is depressed encourage them to talk. But if someone is, or appears to be, having suicidal thoughts get emergency help for them. A visit to Accident and Emergency will enable a proper assessment to be made and can be a fast track into psychiatric services. It doesn't necessarily mean that the patient will be hospitalised, as if needed there are intensive crisis services operating in the community nowadays. But it might just save a life.