A 22 year-old college student went on a rampage that took the lives of six people and ended with his own death, most likely at his own hands. Of course the predictable calls for gun control and blame gun rights organizations started almost immediately. News reports flooded in about YouTube videos that the suspected killer had posted but not much, in most news outlets, was told of the contents of those videos. As investigators dug deeper, they found a 141-page manifesto about how he would make the world “perfect”. His Facebook page gave an insight to a charmed life of the son of a Hollywood assistant director. This young man had everything most Americans would love to have, so why would someone with so much going for them commit such a heinous act? One word may hold the answers; depression.
Having dealt with depression for the last 12 years, I have insight into what it is like to feel you are in a deep, dark hole no matter how much you have going for you. No light gets into the hole even though the sun is bright and your friends and family try to help “cheer you up”. There are many misconceptions about what depression is and how you overcome it. For me, the right medication and the support of my wife were key factors that have brought me to a point where I am not in the dark hole. For others, the depression is so strong that it requires inpatient care and intense therapy. Although there are varying degrees of depression and some milder forms can be overcome without long term medication, other forms are not only harder to treat but also harder to diagnose. This young man may not have showed signs of deep depression until just recently but he probably had it for some time.
You may wonder how I know this since I am not a psychiatrist. I watched his video on YouTube and listened to how he described how he was feeling and the thoughts he had leading up to this “day of retribution”. Some of the things he described feeling such as hate toward the human race and rejection were all too familiar with me as I had felt these feelings during the time before I was diagnosed. Left untreated, depression tends to get worse and the further a person withdraws for everyday activities or gets into unhealthy habits the more likely that person will act on those thoughts. To a depressed person, they get those feelings when they see people with nicer cars, homes, phones, and even girlfriends. The hopeless feeling that they will never have those things turn into resentment of those who have them. Without treatment, the downward spiral can get out of control.
The killer had expressed many feelings of inadequacy in his love life leading to the conclusion that he was in a hopeless situation and in his mind he had come up with a plan to make things right. A friend stated that he had tried to help and the family tried to intervene but efforts fell short and law enforcement missed some clues. The end result was the needless deaths of 7 people, 3 of which were stabbed, three were shot, and one possible suicide. We as a society need to come to terms with the state of our mental health system in this country and work to improve treatment and prevent tragedies.
Most people with depression are not a danger to themselves or others but if left untreated or diagnosed, depression can take a toll on the person and on family members. Here are some signs to look for in yourself and loved ones to help catch depression before it escalates. Not all the following are absolute signs of depression but can be indicators that there is a problem. 1. Sudden lack of interest in activities once enjoyed. This can be anything from not going out with friends to complete withdrawal from daily activities. Concern should be voiced if such withdrawal is prolonged and not due to other illness (flu or cold). 2. Major change in eating or sleeping habits. Usually when someone starts eating more or less or starts sleeping when they would usually be awake can indicate being over stressed but if it continues for an extended amount of time it can be depression. 3. Increased alcohol consumption. Like other mental conditions, depression seems to ease with alcohol but in reality it depresses the central nervous system and can cause deeper depression. If a person who is a casual or social drinker suddenly starts to binge drink or begins drinking daily this may be a sign of self-medicating that can be dangerous to the person. These are just a few things to indicate possible depression you can find more here.
It is also important to know when to take immediate action. Here are a few red flags that everyone dealing with depression or a person with depression should watch for. 1. Expressed desire to harm oneself or others. More than anything, if you or a loved one is expressing a sincere desire to harm yourself or others it is time to seek professional help. You can call 911 or go to the nearest hospital and tell them your feelings. 2. Actually causing intentional harm to oneself or others. It is a very serious matter if you or a loved one are actually trying to cause harm either by cutting, shooting, stabbing, or by punching and kicking get help fast. 3. Uncontrolled fit of rage. The person may not be attacking people but may be destroying inanimate objects. This could escalate to a dangerous situation. In all these cases immediate intervention is needed to prevent harm or death to the person or others.
Depression is treatable and can be managed. If you or a loved one are experiencing depression or any other mental illness, call your doctor or a local mental health facility and get the help you need. As with many illnesses, depression does not go away on its own but you can live a better life with the correct treatment. I am living proof of that.