For most people, when we feel sad we eat a bit of chocolate, watch a favorite movie or get together with friends and family. Unfortunately, serious depression cannot be cured by taking a vacation or having a laugh. It is something that affects your entire life and can be very difficult to overcome. In some cases, it can lead to an inability to function in day-to-day life, problems maintaining relationships, a breakdown or even suicide.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In the most recent data collection from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 41,149 people died due to suicide, meaning that one American dies every 12.8 seconds from suicide.
A recent study has identified behavior patterns that can be seen as suicide symptoms for people with depression. The research involved 2,811 people with depression (of those, 628 had previously attempted suicide). Each individual was evaluated using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) based on family history, previous suicide attempts, psychiatric symptoms, current and previous treatments, clinical presentations and risk factors for bipolar disorder. They were looking specifically at the behaviors and characteristics of those who had attempted suicide compared to those who had not.
The researchers found that the rates for suicide are four times higher for men. They also found that the risk for suicide is 50 percent higher for those who display the following symptoms while suffering depression:
- Risky behavior – such as irresponsible driving, promiscuous behavior, etc.
- Psychomotor agitation – such as pacing, repetition of motion, wringing one’s hands, etc.
- Impulsivity – such as decision making with no forethought or regards for consequences
The study shows that healthcare professionals who pay close attention to these symptoms could have a greater chance at preventing future suicides. The study’s author, Dr. Dina Popovic, a psychiatrist at Barcelona Hospital Clinic and the Clinical Research Institute of Biomedical Research in Spain, says, “In our opinion, assessing these symptoms in every depressed patient we see is extremely important, and has immense therapeutical implications. Most of these symptoms will not be spontaneously referred by the patient, the clinician needs to inquire directly, and many clinicians may not be aware of the importance of looking at these symptoms before deciding to treat depressed patients.”
According to the CDC, there are many factors playing a role in the rate of suicide, including age (with those 45 to 64 at the highest risk), gender, race/ethnicity, geographical location and economic factors. To learn more about suicide prevention, you must understand the risk factors and warning signs.
Risk factors and warning signs of suicide
- Clinical depression or other mental disorders
- Alcohol or substance abuse problems
- Family history of suicide, mental disorders, substance abuse or violence
- A history of physical or sexual abuse
- Prior attempts at suicide (20 to 50 percent of individuals who commit suicide have attempted it in the past)
- Suffering from chronic pain or illness
- Traumatic or extreme life events
- Keeping firearms in the home
There is generally not one single factor involved, but a combination of many. In addition to risk factors, it is important to understand the warning signs of suicidal thoughts and behavior. They include:
- Clinical depression – this can result in trouble sleeping, loss of interest in daily life, constant sadness and changes in eating
- Risk taking – often referred to as having a “death wish” and involves taking unnecessary risk with personal safety
- Death on the mind – this can refer to making comments specifically about death or feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness
- Emotional removal – this can be talking about how things would be better if they weren’t around, putting their affairs in order or actually saying goodbye
- Mood swings – such as constant sadness being replaced by a sudden appearance of happiness
- Direct reference to suicide – talking about death or killing one’s self
Depression is strongly linked to suicide and accounts for 90 percent of all deaths by suicide; therefore, it is also important to understand the symptoms of depression and be able to identify the signs.
Are you depressed? How to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression
Everyone feels sad sometimes; it’s just a part of life. However, if you feel constant sadness without relief, you may be suffering from depression. Depression can be caused by a number of biological, psychological, and social factors, including stress, a family history of depression, relationship problems, substance abuse, health problems, loneliness, childhood abuse or trauma and financial strain.
Depression can display differently in each individual, so understanding common signs and symptoms can increase prevention for yourself and also help you notice the issues in your friends and family. If any of the following signs and symptoms become overwhelming, debilitating or do not decrease or disappear over time, a medical professional should be consulted to discuss treatment.
- Feeling anger or irritable – this can include restlessness, violence and agitation, and mood swings are often sudden and extreme.
- Self-loathing or feeling helpless and hopeless – often depression causes unnecessary guilt, self-criticism and a bleak outlook on life in general.
- Issues with sleep – this can include insomnia and hypersomnia (sleeping too much).
- Lack of interest in daily life and a loss of energy – nothing seems to matter, the ability to feel pleasure is greatly reduced or non-existent, and regular tasks and activity are exhausting or impossible to complete.
- Changes to eating habits – this can cause weight gain or less due to over or undereating.
- Trouble focusing – decision making, memory and concentration are all effected by depression.
- Physical pain – often unexplained, those suffering from depression have an increase complaint of aches and pains.
- Reckless behavior – this can relate to substance abuse, gambling, dangerous driving habits, etc.
If you or anyone you know is displaying signs or symptoms of depression, seek help immediately to prevent suicidal tendency, thoughts and actions.
Suicide prevention tips
It can be awkward and difficult to bring up topics such as depression and suicide, but often just opening up the conversation for discussion can save a life. Most people suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts do not want to hurt themselves, they just want the pain and suffering to end and are not able to come up with another solution. To help prevent suicide, understanding the signs and symptoms of depression is the first step, especially because many people will not ask for help. The next step is to recognize the warning signs of suicide and take them seriously. Here are three tips to help you prevent suicide and act accordingly:
- Speak up: It can be very intimidating to bring up the topic of depression or suicide, but it is the first step towards prevention. Start the conversation by showing concern about the person and the recent changes in their attitude/behavior. Ask questions about their situation and what might have happened to cause their depression or negativity. Find out how long the feelings have continued and if they have sought any help. In general, try to figure out how advanced the depression is and how you can support them while they seek professional help. Make it very clear that you care and want to help and ensure them they are not alone. Do not offer solutions or arguments. Simply listen to what they have to say, show sympathy and be honest with your concerns.
- Respond quickly: If you think somebody is in danger of suicide, acting immediately could help prevent an attempt at suicide or even save their life. Depending on the level of severity, find out if the person has ever thought about suicide, has a plan for suicide or has the means to commit suicide. Never leave a suicidal person alone and don’t attempt to deal with the situation all alone. Contact a medical professional or emergency services.
- Provide help and support: Don’t take responsibility, it can be extremely difficult to deal with a person with severe depression or suicidal tendencies. Listen to what they have to say, offer support and help them seek appropriate treatment. Due to the intense nature of events, it is often important for you to seek out help as well, or at least talk to somebody you trust, after helping an individual with depression or suicidal thoughts – especially because the troubled person will need your continued support as they attempt to get better.
If you are feeling depressed, or know someone who is, there are also natural treatments that can help combat depression. Please speak with your doctor to help determine which treatment is best for you.
Natural treatments for depression
- Regular exercise – staying fit helps keep alleviate your mood
- Using relaxation techniques – stress is one of the most common causes of depression
- Meditation – focusing on the moment to stave off negative thoughts
- Yoga – helps improve mind and body
- Music therapy – music can help lift your spirit and calm stress
- Guided imagery – helps you envision a goal and maintain positive thinking
- Herbal supplements – there are many useful supplements, but check with your doctor first
- Set daily goals – even small achievements can help generate a feeling of accomplishment
- Find a routine to stay positive – give life a purpose
- Get enough sleep – depression can increase from lack of sleep
- Eat healthy – keeping the body healthy also helps regulate mood
- Try something new – this can alter the chemicals in the brain that are related to pleasure
Depression and suicide are very serious issues and should not be ignored. If you notice the symptoms of depression or signs of suicide, reach out and offer your support. If you are feeling depressed yourself, talk to someone you trust. There are ways to prevent and treat suicidal tendencies and natural treatments for depression. If issues persist or worsen, make sure to contact a healthcare professional to get the help you need. And remember, the first step toward suicide prevention is communication; don’t be afraid to speak up.
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