How are you doing? How are you really doing?

How are you? Be honest. Is it one of the following?

  • “I’m overwhelmed. I’m not sure how much longer I can go on like this.”
  • “My kids are driving me nuts and I want to run away from home.”
  • “I feel like I’m all alone and I have no one to turn to.”

But you aren’t honest. You don’t want anyone — even your spouse or best friend — to think you are a bad parent or that you can’t handle it, so you say, “I’m fine.”

The phrase, “how are you” is much more than a throwaway, a prompt we often use to make polite conversation. It’s a question we need to ask sincerely of those we care about, as in “how are you really doing?”, and be ready and willing to hear the answer.

We need to answer honestly. In this culture, being vulnerable is frowned upon. We instead try to appear strong and project an “I don’t need anyone” mentality. We don’t want to burden others with our problems. We are defensive and use anger to protect ourselves and push others away.

We struggle silently alone. And it’s killing us.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people between ages 10 and 34, and the fourth-leading cause of death among
individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.

More alarming is the suicide rate the
Centers for Disease Control reported for ages 10-24 in October 2019. Suicide rates increased from 2007 to 2014; the rate for those ages 10-14 nearly tripled from 2007 to 2017. Suicide is second only to accidents, such as car-crashes as the leading cause of teen deaths.

No one knows why more tweens and teens are killing themselves. Bullying and social media have been blamed, and they could be contributing factors. For any age, the answer is complicated. But there are signs when someone is in distress, and you can help.

It starts by simply asking: “How are you
really doing?”

Most of the time you’ll find that someone is just happy that you cared enough to ask so they feel free to vent about their bad day — or bad month or year. They feel better after you talk, less alone, and perhaps hopeful.

You might ask and receive an answer that concerns you. It’s a myth that if you talk about suicide you will put the idea in their head. Ask if they are thinking about hurting themselves and seek professional help (see resources below.)

That teen sitting alone in their room that hasn’t talked to you for a few days (unless they are yelling at you), the teen you think is going through a phase because this is happening all the time? Ask them how they are. If you don’t get an answer, ask again. And keep asking.

We are all busy with work and our kids and life, but we need to try to check in with our friends and family to see how things are going. We need to reach out to those who we think might need our help, especially those who can feel isolated like the elderly, and teach your kids to do the same.

Someone may be hoping someone just asks them how they are.

Ask. You could make their day, or save their life.

If you or someone you know needs help:

In an emergency: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

For more information and resources, call NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) NH at 1-800-242-6264. 

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