Depression: Stopping the Downward Spiral
can affect all aspects of your life, and most people would
agree that it has the biggest impact when suicide is the result.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH),
research shows that most people who kill themselves have "a
diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder or both, and
that the majority have depressive illness." The NIMH also
stresses that the best prevention for suicide is early recognition
and treatment of depression and any other illnesses that contribute
to the risk.
Most at Risk?
white males have the highest rates of suicide. In fact, age
is a significant risk factor. But people of both genders and
all ages do kill themselves, so you can't really rule anybody
out. In addition to depression and other mental illness, risk
factors for suicide include:
history of suicide
earlier suicide attempt
in the home
violence, including physical or sexual abuse
to suicide of friend or family member (especially true for
is one of the complications of severe depression, but it's
important to remember that most people who suffer from depression
do not kill themselves. The tragedy of suicide, however, is
that it's highly preventable in most cases. The problem is
that when people are suicidal, they've reached a point where
their thinking may not be rational.
book Darkness Visible, the writer William Styron described
suicide as something he wanted to do to kill the depression,
something that would make the pain go away. The desperation
he felt is clear. This feeling is common for people who have
reached the point where they want to end their lives because
example of Mike, a 50-year-old entrepreneur who has suffered
from depression since he was in his 20s. Mike did try to kill
himself in the late 1980s, but was unsuccessful. He says,
"I lost everything but my life. My business, an apartment
I loved, many belongings. I had become so sick that I stopped
getting out of bed.
takes an anti-depressant daily. "I would never consider going
off my medication. Ever. I truly believe it saves my life.
"For me, wanting to kill myself wasn't scary at all. When
you reach that point, you're so ready for everything to be
over. It's easy to imagine getting in your car and driving
at a hundred miles per hour on the highway into a bridge abutment.
That's why I know now that I have to keep myself from reaching
that point. I have to stay in treatment. I want to."
a Loved One Who May be Suicidal
It's not true that people talk about suicide "just to get
attention." Friends and family members should take any comments
about suicide seriously. Other signs that indicate someone
may be thinking of killing himself include:
away valued belongings
from family and friends
of interest in the future
such as "You'd be better off without me," or "Maybe I won't
be around anymore."
concerned that someone you care about is thinking about committing
suicide, the worst thing to do is nothing at all. A suicidal
person needs professional treatment. If your loved one does
not seek treatment, you should call the therapist or family
some things you should NOT do if you believe someone
close to you wants to commit suicide:
accuse the person of being dramatic or lazy or trying to
tell the person to "snap out of it."
who is severely depressed is completely unable to snap out
of it. A suicidal person needs to get professional treatment
National Institute of Mental Health; National Mental Health Association; A. Solomon. The Noonday Demon. Scribner, New York, New York, 2001.