I have previously written about the subject of bullying (in school and in the workplace), and I have also written about women supporting each other in the workplace. So now, it's only natural I write about women, stress and suicide in recognition of Suicide Awareness Month.
In this day and age, there is more pressure than ever before being placed on women. From full-time (even part-time) employment, cooking, cleaning, childcare responsibilities, care-giving to elderly parents, the list goes on and on. Women today are expected to do more than ever. If you are fortunate enough to not have to work or to have household help (in the form of a nanny, housekeeper or a partner who evenly splits household responsibilities), this may reduce your stress somewhat. But in reality, most women do not have these options. It's insane. You have to be the "best" parent, the "best" employee, the "best" wife (girlfriend/partner), have the newest model car, be highly educated, thin, attractive... My Lord, how can anyone cope? Women are made to feel inadequate on every level. Just watch all the commercials on TV, they tell you, you will be happier if you drive this brand new car, eat this food, have this gadget, wear these clothes, etc. No wonder women feel it's all too much; you feel like a failure if you can't measure up to these ridiculous standards.
Job problems, excessive stress, crisis, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, child abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual), and a lack of social support are all common risk factors for suicidal behavior. Any one of these things would be terribly overwhelming for a woman to deal with. And then, comes the coping mechanisms: alcohol, too many sweets, smoking, Xanax. I know when I've been stressed to the max, I reach right for the chocolate! (At least it tastes good.) All things that work against you as far as your health is concerned. But what is left when someone feels like these ineffective coping mechanism just don't work anymore?
I worked with a woman who died by suicide. Though I was away on vacation when the call came in, I remember falling to my knees and crying out in utter disbelief. To this very day, I cannot shake it. The call was on a Monday and I had just seen her three days before. She seemed fine to me; we were laughing and joking together. I wonder what was going on with her then? Did anyone see the signs? Was she one of these women under extreme stress?
By all accounts, she seemed to be happy, content, nothing seemed off (at least not to me). I guess you can never truly tell what someone is going through in their life. I know it's true that everyone has a story, and that most people are going through something. It's frowned upon to be negative; you should be a trooper and just plow through. You just cannot know.
I'm sure there are many women who feel that they are not living up to everyone's expectations, always feeling inferior, juggling too many responsibilities and just feeling completely overwhelmed. Sometimes it feels like you are never good enough. Even if you have high self esteem, sometimes it can feel there is always something or someone to come along and try to knock you down. The pressures of society can become too much then comes the hopelessness. And thus begins the downward spiral. I have always had a high regard for myself; however, I have had many obstacles, setbacks, regrets, disappointments, missed opportunities and let-downs. But, I can honestly say that I somehow always managed to go on in one way or another. I think it has helped me that I have sisters, which has helped me deeply understand other women and be more empathetic to other people's struggles. That's all it takes sometimes, a little support, concern, and empathy to help someone get through a bad time and feel that they don't have to end their life. That somehow things will get better; tomorrow may be brighter. Suicide is not the answer.
There are hotlines, programs, lifelines, that can help. Following up with loved ones is just one of the actions that you can take to help others. Also, talk openly with someone, become available, show interest and support, offer hope that alternatives are available. Ultimately suicide isn't anyone's fault, but the commonality of it may be reduced if we encourage more open emotional sharing and normalize feelings of depression that may otherwise by held within and result in suicide]
National Suicide Prevention Life 1-800-273- TALK provides a 24/7 hotline to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
It really saddens me that women feel so much pressure these days. We live in a very "life is hard, just put up with it" society, but that just keeps emotions in and stops people from seeking the help they may desperately need. Which is why I am so adamant about treating others with kindness, empathy and understanding. You never know what anyone is going through; what is going on in their lives. Someone can be having a hard time at their job, have money issues, be unemployed, having issues with their children, siblings, parents (they can be caretakers), marital problems, or be struggling deeply with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. We should all stand beside one another to help other women out whenever possible. Someday it could be you needing help, and it would be nice to know that someone has your back and truly cares. It can be the difference between saving a life or losing one.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the advice you need!
Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist