When depression turns to suicidal thoughts


When depression turns to suicidal thoughts

At one time or another, just about all of us have felt depressed.  Maybe it lasted for a few hours, a day or several days, but generally for the majority of us, the feeling passes.  But sometimes depression can last and last leading to an unbearable feeling. For some, their depression gets to the point where life does not seem worth living.  When depression develops to this stage, suicidal thoughts may begin to occupy one’s thoughts as they contemplate and consider taking their own life.   

It is always difficult to comprehend and understand what one is going through who either attempts or is successful at suicide.  For individuals across the U.S. who struggle with their mental illness having little to no access for help, it may seem like only the wealthy and influential have the resources available to beat back depression and suicidal contemplation. However, that hasn’t always been the case. In the past several years, many high-profile individuals such as fashion designer Kate Spade, author and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, and actor Robin Williams, had all the money and resources in the world and yet it didn’t matter.  We can only imagine how completely hopeless and overwhelmed each must have felt to have kept their battle with depression from view.

Mental illness – a disease still stigmatized and few of us talk about.  We openly discuss conversations about cancer or dementia, but mental illness that includes depression and suicide, remains hush-hush.  Is that because mental illness is viewed as being weak or is it because few of us want to comprehend its magnitude. 

According to the latest data from the CDC, an estimated 1 in 10 Americans currently suffer from depression and women are 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed than men.

Mental illness also affects up to 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. or about 44 million according to the National Institute of Mental Health.  Adults are not the only victims of this disease – children and teenagers can also fall prey to its grip. Depression is especially dangerous to teens and young adults whose brains are not fully developed and who are impressionable.  Sadly, only around 50 percent of children and teens with a mental illness (ages 8 to 15) receive health services, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  For adults, it’s even worse – only 41 percent get treatment with many being unable to afford treatment or medication.

What is depression?

Depression is easy for any one of us to become a victim of.  During our lifetime, everyone will experience loss of loved ones or tragedies and a normal reaction to these unfortunate realities can make even the most stoic of us feel sad or depressed at times. 

But when intense sadness – including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless – lasts for many days to weeks keeping you from living your life, it may be something more than sadness. Depression is a disease just like any other and it’s not about being weak of lacking willpower.  Depression is a debilitating mental illness that can take on several forms, including, clinical depressionmajor depressive disorder (depression lasting for at least two years), psychotic depression (symptoms of depression along with delusions or hallucinations), postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder (depression that mainly occurs in the winter months).

What are the signs of depression?

While there are many signs of depression, one of the most serious symptoms is suicidal thoughts or attempts at suicide.  In fact, depression is the most common mental disorder associated with suicide. Shockingly, a report from the CDC found that the suicide rate among adults aged 35-64 increased 28.4 percent from 1999 to 2010, with an estimated 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010.  As of 2010, more people died from suicide than from car crashes.

Depression is a serious, debilitating, and yet treatable mental illness.  It is important to pay attention to its signs and symptoms if you think you or someone you know may be suffering from it – here is what to watch for:

·      Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

·      Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism

·      Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

·      Irritability, restlessness

·      Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

·      Fatigue and reduced energy

·      Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

·      Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

·      Overeating, or appetite loss

·      Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

·      Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment 

If you or anyone else you know has any of the above symptoms, seek out help immediately.  There are various resources out there that are in place to provide the help of speaking to a mental health therapist if you are contemplating suicide.  There is also the National Suicide Prevention Hotline which is a 24-hour service by calling 1-800-273-8255.  For more information on depression, including where to find help in your area, visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America