By Dennis Gillan & Dr. Mark Pleiss
National Suicide Prevention Week is from September 9 – 15 this year, but we all know it should be every week. We lose one person to suicide in the United States every 11.7 minutes and suicide is preventable. We know that by helping someone in a time of need you become the greatest version of yourself. One way to do this is to learn the signs of mental distress and how to help that person. Keep your head on a swivel, go with your gut, and if you see something, say something. As a brother of Phi Delta Theta, I would encourage you to learn both the physical and mental health resources available on your campus.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
The following text is an example of the inner dialogue people with depression or other mental health issues often say to themselves as they struggle to cope with their symptoms.
The Depressed Perspective
I feel this constant dread that is always there. It isn’t from a test, a project, or daily life. It is just me. I joined this Fraternity to be happy, and these brothers are supposed to be my keeper. I am their brother and they can’t even help me. Can’t they see that I am struggling? Don’t they know that I am hurting on the inside? How can I be so alone in a room full of my friends… no, my brothers. They must know what I am thinking and feeling. How couldn’t they know that I feel empty on the inside? These are the people I am closest with, yet it feels like they are worlds away from me. Everyone is excited for the new semester, so I have to fake a smile until everyone else settles into the misery of a college semester.
I am angry, but that anger is controlled until I drink. I keep it bottled up, but the only time I can relax is when I have a couple beers to keep me calm. Another sip of whiskey, and I will chill out. Maybe some fresh air and a smoke. Maybe on the roof, or on the porch, just to get away from everyone. Out of sight. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but that’s normal, right? But these guys don’t want to help me. I NEED their help, and why can’t they see that I want it to all go away. I rather punch a wall than cry. The anger hides my fear, my pain, my struggle. They abandoned me. No one cares. They would be better off if they didn’t have to worry about me. They will be in a better place if I am gone. They can go on without having to help me or pretend to care. I know the solution. I solved the problem… because the problem is me, and if I am not here, then there is no problem.
If the above statements from the depressed perspective are close to how you are feeling or thinking on a regular basis, it is likely that you need to seek professional help. As much as your brothers would like to help and support you, we are ultimately responsible for our own mental health and must invest in our own wellness and utilize our resources.
But what can we do to help those that may be struggling with managing their stress? Take time to discuss mental health with your brothers and pay close attention to their talk, behavior, and their mood. We may not know how our brothers feel or what they are thinking, but we can create the bonds of friendship between one another and be open to the conversations about mental health. If you are concerned a brother may be struggling, reach out to them. Say “I’m here when you need me.” If something seems off, I encourage you to step in before they step out. Zero suicides would be nice and anything short should be unacceptable.
Dennis Gillan is a speaker for suicide prevention and his work is powered by the memories of his two brothers, Mark and Matthew, both lost to suicide. www.dennisgillan.com
Dr. Mark E. Pleiss (Washington & Jefferson ’11) currently serves the Fraternity as the Upsilon South Province President, as well as the Mental Health Expert for the Education Committee. He has been on faculty for Kleberg and PLC. Mark graduated from Washington and Jefferson College with a BA in Psychology in 2011. He then went on to earn his Masters (2013) and Doctorate (2016) in Clinical Psychology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).