Clinical depression can cause crushing feelings of sadness and hopelessness for weeks, months or even years at a time. Untreated depression is a very serious condition because of the increased risk of suicide.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2007) reports that approximately 34,000 people in the U.S. die by suicide every year. This organization also reports that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for American adults between the ages of 18 and 65. Learn about the link between suicide and depression, as well helpful suicide prevention measures.
Suicide Risk Factors
Although suicide and depression can affect anyone at any time, certain situations can lead to high suicide rates, such as having a mental disorder. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2007), 90 percent of suicidal individuals have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, such as:
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorder
- Severe anxiety
- Substance abuse.
Depression alone accounts for 60 percent of all suicide cases.
Although women tend to suffer from suicide and depression more often than men, males are more likely to be successful because they use more lethal means to commit suicide. Suicide rates may also increase with drug and alcohol abuse, previous suicide attempts and age (especially in men once they reach 65).
Suicide Warning Signs
Although not all depressed individuals exhibit suicide warning signs, the following behaviors may warrant immediate intervention:
- Changes in sleep or diet
- Depression and sadness
- Dramatic mood swings
- Excessive guilt or shame
- Feeling trapped
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Giving away prized possessions
- Inexplicable anger or rage
- Â Loss of interest in previously-enjoyed activities
- Poor performance at work or school
- Reckless behavior
- Substance abuse
- Writing a will.
Prevention of Suicide
Recognizing these suicide warning signs is the first step in the prevention of suicide. If you think a friend, family member or loved one may be suicidal, insist that she seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) is a free 24-hour hotline available to anyone in emotional distress. Local crisis centers can also help individuals deal with suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Medical professionals also recommend treating the underlying mental disorder behind the suicidal thoughts, often with antidepressant medication and therapy. Note, however, that the first few weeks of antidepressant treatment often lead to an increased suicide risk. If someone you know begins to take antidepressants, monitor him closely and be prepared to intervene if you recognize any suicide warning signs. Successful prevention of suicide is contingent on recognition and quick action from friends and family.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (2010). National statistics. Retrieved June 27, 2010, from http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage