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Suicide Prevention: How Depression and Suicide are Interwined?

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

Depression and Suicide

Untreated cases of depression increase* the risks of suicide in an individual. However, not all people who are depressed will have thoughts of suicide. Although majority of people who commit suicide suffer from mental related illnesses, some become suicidal without any signs of depression. Most cases of depression are reported in women but majority of suicides occur in men. However, most attempts of suicide are reported in women than in men.

Facts About Depression

  • On average, in the United States alone, close to 20 million cases of depression are reported annually
  • The chances of depression are as twice likely to occur in women as compared to men
  • Depressed persons are susceptible to opportunistic illnesses like colds and coughs
  • People susceptible to depression are at a higher risk of developing the illness if they are abused emotionally, physically or psychologically
  • Depression can strike anyone regardless of age, gender, physical location or social-economic status
  • According to World Health Organization, depression will be the second killer disease globally after HIV/Aids* by the year 2030
  • Suicide cases in the elderly, mostly above the age of 85 are as a result of depression. It is surprising that depression among the elderly go unnoticed or untreated
  • Close to 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from mental related illnesses, in which depression is the major trigger

Medical Illness and Depression

In most people, chronic illnesses and depression symptoms occur simultaneously. Medical illnesses that require lifelong treatments predispose the patients with possible risks of depression. About a third of people with serious medical conditions will suffer from depression at any one time in their lives. On the other hand, depression becomes a complication in people with serious medical illnesses. In some cases, the symptoms associated with a medical illness may be camouflaged with similar signs of depression. This makes it difficult for physicians to carry out proper diagnosis in such patients especially the elderly who report their bothers instead of their sources. Most tend to assume that symptoms of depression occur with old age or as a result of other medical illnesses.

Risk Factors for Depression

With researches still underway to establish the exact causes of depression, there are a number of risk factors associated with promoting its occurrence. These include:

  • Female Gender – Due to hormonal changes in the course of their developments, women are at a higher risk of getting depressed. A woman who recently gave has a higher risk of postpartum depression
  • Close family member, friend or relative with depression
  • Major life events such as loss of a loved one, catastrophes or accidents
  • Having experienced depression before. There is a tendency of recurrence if you previously had depression
  • Negative and demeaning personal characters such as low self-esteem
  • Substances abuse such as alcohol, drugs or smoking
  • Other medical illnesses such as HIV/AIDS*
  • Medications for the cure* of high blood pressure
  • Having a negative perception about life or being entirely dependent on others when making decisions

Risk Factors of Suicide

Risk factors of suicide refer to conditions that make it more likely that a person will consider, attempt or die through suicide. These include:

  • Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depression, mood disorders, anxiety disorders as well as personality confusion
  • Substance abuse such as overconsumption of alcohol and recreational street drugs
  • Despair in life and too much irritability
  • Past experiences of physical abuse or traumatic events at childhood or in adult stage
  • Financial difficulties following a job loss or a prolonged duration without a job
  • Severed relationships leading to divorce or separation
  • Lack of emotional support* and easy access to lethal weapons and drugs
  • Religious and cultural beliefs, such as nobility of dying by suicide

Depression and Suicide Prevention in Children

Depression is rife in children although it might be harder to diagnose since they have a broad spectrum of moods related to interactions with others at home or in school. It’s common for your kid to ignite in to anger feelings over a small issue. Showing partiality in paying attention to your kids can increase* the risk of depression later in life. If you detect a possibility of depression in an infant, it is important to take action instantly. Talk to them, show them you care and advice them on the eventual consequences of major depression. These duties should be carried out by parents, tutors, community leaders as well as Sunday school spiritual leaders. In severe cases of depression, it is advisable to seek professional assistance as soon as possible.

Depression and Suicide Prevention in Teenager

Teens are under pressure to perform in school and assume a responsible life. It is during this period that they their gender significance starts to take shape. They start establishing romantic friendships which can go sour at times. They are undergoing a lot of hormonal changes especially girls. All these factors put them at risk of getting depressed. Any persistent symptoms that could suggest your teen is depressed should not be taken lightly. Introducing them to a counselor can go a long way in preventing the possibilities of depression including suicide thoughts or attempts. You should assist them in recognizing the changes that come with their age and the precautions they should take.

Depression and Suicide Prevention in Women

Most attempts cases of suicide are reported in women although most deaths occur in men. How should you handle a woman who is depressed? You should give them an ear and let them express their feelings to you. Do not give them any advice but make them aware that other people experience the same feelings. If they insist of harming themselves, show them concern and convince them of the great roles they play in your life. Probe in a friendly manner to find out if they have ever had thought of committing suicide. If you find it hard, request someone else to find out on your behalf. If you realize they had a suicide plan, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 800-273-TALK and seek assistance at once. If the depressed agree, accompany them to the hospital and give details to the physician handling them.

Protective Factors Against Suicide

These are factors that take away the urges and thoughts of a depressed person from committing suicide. They include:

  • Comprehensive medical plan for mental related disorders, Physical disorders and substance abuse covers
  • Uncomplicated access to majority clinical institutions where they can readily get any form of support* or assistance whenever they need. These include toll free numbers where they can get ambulance assistance at any given time
  • A strong bond with family members and community self help support* groups
  • A continuous support* from a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist who is in charge of treating the particular patient. Having the physician’s contact in the speed dial will assist the patient to reach out for help as soon as he needs it
  • Patients should be trained how to deal with stress, conflict resolution and calm ways of taking care of conflicts
  • The depressed should be equipped with religious and cultural beliefs that discourage suicide