Faith Works 9-12-15
2-1-1 and when things just don't fit
Depression is a funny thing.
Not funny ha-ha. But you can be depressed, deeply depressed, even clinically depressed, and still laugh. It rings hollow inside your own head, but it's not that difficult to keep up the appearances.
It's funny, it's odd, it's downright strange how depression can creep up on you, like a slowly developing storm cloud, going from a lovely day to gloom and darkness without your noticing until the rain starts to fall. Depression can come on like distant thunder, or a sudden clap of lightning out of a blue sky. It comes in like the tide, except when it's a tidal wave that barely gives notice that the beach beneath your feet will disappear beneath you, the sky coming down with a roar. We all know a death, a loss, the end of a relationship or job can trigger it, but when your psyche is thrown off balance, you can be pitched into a serious depression by the cancellation of a TV show or the distant assassination of a foreign dictator.
Scientists and doctors keep investigating depression. It has a biochemical component, your internal chemistry and flow of hormones pulling you down one way, your sugar and sodium and potassium tugging in another, and somewhere in there are the key compounds that turn a mood into a crisis.
Head injuries can cause depression. Stroke. Surgery, even successful surgery. Addiction certainly doesn't help, especially to substances that are themselves "depressants," but any addictive behavior can dance the mournful gavotte of a depressive episode.
It's not your fault any more than a broken hip is your fault; yes, you left that bowling ball bag out in the hallway and tripped over it, but who would say to you on the ground, or in the squad, or at the hospital, "Hey, that broken bone is your fault!"
Depression, when it becomes serious, when it gets severe, is isolating, disrupting and desolating. Hope that seems obvious to someone sitting right next to you is invisible to you. And solutions get twisted, warped, confused at best and suicidal at worst.
Maybe you've called 2-1-1 to get information about a social service, or to find a phone number for a program you or a friend needs. Pathways of Central Ohio has been known as the Crisis Center and the Suicide Hotline and a number of names they may never even have actually had, but they're not only still at 740-345-HELP (4357), they and their Crisis Hotline and Information & Referral Services can be reached simply by calling 2-1-1.
If you have someone you're worried about, you can call 2-1-1 for support and guidance. Clergy and professionals, that means you, too. We don't know everything, and the folks at Pathways answering those 2-1-1 calls have access to pretty much everything, plus training that can come in handy when you're feeling overwhelmed by someone's need.
When there's a weapon at hand, an active threat or you think someone's taken something to hurt themselves, you still call 9-1-1. That's basic. But if you need to talk, you need to talk to someone about how to talk to someone else, and as anyone is trying to figure out how to get help, 2-1-1 is ready and waiting.
In Licking County, this summer has been bracketed by two high-profile, much-discussed suicides. In late May, a pastor, and as August ended, a student leader in college. Both were people who gave help to others, who knew something about where to find help, and had gotten basic training in knowing when sadness was turning into depression, and what to do about it. Knowing that even those sorts of people were vulnerable to the worst depression can do to a person is shocking, even scary to the rest of us.
We have to keep saying to each other, over and over: it's okay to need help. It's fine to admit you're at the end of your rope. There are resources that can help you…can I make the call for you? There is no single, lasting solution to this, anymore than we can guarantee an end to broken hips. It takes awareness, understanding, and the ongoing willingness to affirm treatment and celebrate recovery.
For Seth, for Wendell, we keep reaching out to put our arms around each other, and to listen, and when necessary, to call for help.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's called 2-1-1 before and will again! Tell him where you think we can help each other in our community at email@example.com