A Friend in Need: Depression and the Quiet Cry for Help
As exam time looms closer, anxieties in the law school community are running high. It doesn’t help that one of the common law student characteristics is our desire for control, our desire for perfection and our A type personalities.
But what if you felt completely, overwhelmingly out of control?
I’ve heard depression compared to quicksand. Imagine trying to study for your exams while battling a mental and emotional quicksand that sucks you back in, again and again.
Imagine if you felt completely unable to fight your battles or escape the quicksand.
You’re surrounded by smiling faces but you can’t speak up. You catch the eye of a friendly passing face, waving frantically for help, but they wave merrily back and keep walking. You continue to struggle and battle your quicksand. Sinking.
Months or years down the track, if these familiar faces got a sense of the battle that was raging while they marched merrily on, there are sounds of “that’s awful”, “if only he/she had reached out”, and “if only I had known”.
Herein lies the problem. There exists this expectation that a depressed individual will reach out for help with a flashing neon sign and a flow chart of how you can assist.
Everyone experiences depression differently, but try and keep in mind that many depressed individuals are uncomfortable about discussing the way they feel. It can be difficult to forge healthy relationships and connect. As a result, it can be embarrassing to explain to someone that you feel so completely out of control and out of your depth. Instead, a cry for help is likely to be subtler: a coffee date, a phone call, or a catch up of some kind.
Please don’t wait for a neon sign. Please don’t label the girl who makes an open cry for help an ‘attention seeker,’ and please don’t mock the guy who leaves the exam early, pale faced and frantic. The person who never seems to show up to class and always seems to have an excuse may have something bigger going on. The girl who comes to uni puffy eyed may not just be having boyfriend trouble.
Instead, consider that inconvenient coffee date with that slightly needy friend. Spend some time in the library with that girl who you’ve talked to in class a couple of times and you think might be trying to steal your notes, in a stealthy temporary best friend kind of way. No one is asking you to be a hero. But in inconveniencing yourself for half an hour, you might just act as a port in a storm.
For help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
More information about depression and anxiety is available at beyondblue.
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