Depression and Suicide

Depression and Suicide
According to an article on entitled “Holiday Suicides: Fact or Myth?,” a long-held belief that suicide rates are higher during the holidays is actually a myth! The article states that suicide rates are lowest during December, and peak during the spring and fall. I must admit that I was shocked to find this information because we’ve all heard for many years that the stress and depression during the holidays causes the suicide rates to spike. Apparently, that isn’t true.

Suicide is reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to be the 11th leading cause of death in the general population of the United States, and the third leading cause of deaths in youths (ages 10-24). Over 34,000 people end their own lives each year, with more than ten times that number attempting suicide.

Suicides in children and young adults who are the victims of bullying, have received a lot of media attention recently. In researching this subject, I was unable to find any statistics on it, possibly because it is a relatively recently recognized phenomenon—especially concerning “cyber-bullying,” or “internet bullying.”

Victims of bullying almost always suffer from depression, which is one of the major risk factors for suicide. Thus, it stands to reason that there is a correlation between bullying and suicide, even though bullying is not listed as a risk factor by the CDC.

If you have a loved one who has any of the risk factors for suicide, pay close attention, and look for warning signs. The CDC lists risk factors for suicide as follows:

(1) Previous suicide attempts.
(2) History of depression or other mental illness(es).
(3) Alcohol and/or drug abuse.
(4) Family history of suicide or violence.
(5) Physical illness.
(6) Loneliness.

Males are approximately four times more likely to take their own lives than women are, but women are much more likely to report instances of attempted suicide than are men. If you are concerned that a friend or loved one might be suicidal, diligently watch for the warning signs listed below:

* Making plans to end life, such as giving away treasured items or drafting a

* Personality or behavior changes which would indicate clinical depression
(deep sadness, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, changes in
sleeping patterns or appetite, extreme guilt, self-condemnation, etc.).

* Doing things that are out of character.

* A sudden change from depression to unexplained happiness, indicating a
decision to end the pain.

* Preoccupation with death, talking about wanting to die.

* Obtaining a weapon, or medications which are not prescribed for him/her.

* Reckless behavior, especially when it is uncharacteristic for the person.

There has also been a lot of media attention given to the increased risk of suicide in children and young adults being treated by antidepressants, especially in the first two months of treatment. After researching this subject, it is my understanding that there seems to be a fairly slight increase in the risk of suicidal behavior in young people taking antidepressants.

However, it appears that the increased risk may be no higher than that of depressed young people who are not treated for depression. Before anyone in that age group (10-24) takes an antidepressant, these risks should be seriously considered, and discussed with the prescribing psychiatrist. (I have found no explanation for why a drug which is meant to decrease depression can instead increase depression, thereby increasing suicidal ideation and/or behavior.)

It is my opinion that only a psychiatrist should prescribe antidepressants or other medications for mental illnesses. Psychiatrists are much better trained, than are family doctors, on how the drugs work, and on which drug might work better for a particular set of psychiatric symptoms.

The obvious truth is that unless you actually have a chemical imbalance in your brain, your depression is being caused by other factors such as relationships, past trauma or abuse, circumstances in your home or work environment, etc. These are issues with which a drug just cannot help. They require the help of a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, and a lot of self-help work.

In my own experience, suicidal thoughts were due to extreme emotional pain. Life has seemed unbearable at times, and looked as if there could be no resolution, or no better day. Many times, it was only my fear of eternal damnation that kept me from making that fatal mistake.

With each beautiful day, each smile, each laugh, each hug, and each kiss, I am so thankful that I gave life another chance. Even when it seems that there can be no end to the pain, you can always count on one thing—change. Never forget that sometimes things are darkest just before dawn, and if you choose suicide, you’ll never see that awesome sunrise.

If you (or a loved one) are considering suicide, please reach out for help! There are people who care and want to help you. If you don’t have a friend or loved one you can call, check your phone book for crisis lines. If you see no other option, call 911! Do not worry about what anyone will think, or how you will be judged. All that matters is your life, and that one call could make the difference in your life being over, or changing for the better.

I shudder to think of the wonderful things I would have missed out on if I had ended my life when I first thought of suicide! I thank God I chose life!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Injury Prevention and Control:
Violence Prevention. “Holiday Suicides: Fact or Myth?”,
December 2009.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Injury Prevention and Control:
Violence Prevention. “Understanding Suicide.”, August 2010.

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