The month of October is a special time for me:
my debut novel, my baby,
will be released IN PRINT on Halloween!
DEPRESSION and SUICIDE
Seen on Facebook yesterday, “You know, in spite of the high cost of living, it’s still popular.” And yet, “In 2012 (the most recent year for which full data are available), 40,600 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans … In that year, someone in the country died by suicide every 12.9 minutes.” (https://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures)
I have shared a few times now, that I suffered from depression for many years of my life. I was totally unaware of it until I sought help for deep underlying issues. I was on prescription medication, and was receiving counseling. Ultimately, it was by faith that I was freed from the disease. But I know all too well much of the misunderstanding of the disease. I have recognized in my writing, that my characters tend to suffer depression, and so, I purpose to help shed light on the disease and generate awareness.
Unrecognized and untreated, depression lends to suicide. I was not personally suicidal nor was I a cutter or inclined to hurt myself, and thus far, none of my characters have been. I did, however, wonder about it countless times, how “easy” it would be to veer across the double yellow lines or slam into a tree. As a child, my insecurity was so great that I wanted to – and tried to – accidentally fall, or otherwise become injured; I so craved attention that I was willing to take it in the guise of sympathy. Almost. My fear, dread really, paralyzing dread, of being found out, accused of causing my “accident” was greater than my need for attention.
Let me clarify. I was not abused by my parents or anyone, nor were my parents raging alcoholics who neglected me or my siblings. My mother, however, suffered from some emotional problems, which were conveyed to me. And created my vast lack of self-worth.
That said, although I was not consciously suicidal, my sub-conscience teetered on the edge. My longing to “run away” is, in fact, a detached variation of suicide. For suicide is, in most simplistic terms, running away. Permanently.
I have heard and read several times that the suicide victim doesn’t really want to die. They just wanted the internal or emotional torment to end.
For today’s post, I have lifted excerpts from the following web site.
Key Research Findings
Our effectiveness in preventing suicide ultimately depends on more fully understanding how and why suicide occurs.
What we know about the causes of suicide lags far behind our knowledge of many other life-threatening illnesses and conditions. In part, this is because the stigma surrounding suicide has limited society’s investment in suicide research. Over the last 25 years, however, we have begun to uncover and understand the complex range of factors that contribute to suicide.
Summarized below are findings from research studies that have especially contributed to our current understanding of suicide.
While nearly all mental disorders have the potential to increase the risk for suicide, studies show that the most common disorders among people who die by suicide are major depression and other mood disorders, and substance use disorders, schizophrenia and personality disorders (Bertolote & Fleischmann, 2002). … studies have consistently found that the overwhelming majority of people who die by suicide—90% or more—had a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. Often, however, these disorders had not been recognized, diagnosed, or adequately treated. … studies have also shown that about one-third of people who took their lives did not communicate their suicide intent to anyone. One of the most important conclusions from this research is the importance of teaching laypeople to recognize the symptoms of mental disorders in those they are close to, so that they can support them to get help.
Research has shown that certain symptoms in the context of depression raise the risk of suicide. These include intense anxiety, panic attacks, desperation, hopelessness, feeling that one is a burden, loss of interest and pleasure, and delusional thinking.
Previous Suicide Attempt
About 20% of people who die by suicide have made a prior suicide attempt, and clinical studies have confirmed that such prior attempts increase a person’s risk for subsequent suicide death. Suicide risk appears to be especially elevated during the days and weeks following hospitalization for a suicide attempt, especially in people with diagnoses of major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia (Tidemalm, et al., 2008).
The majority of people who make a suicide attempt, however, do not ultimately die by suicide.
Family History of Suicide
Research has shown that the risk for suicide can be inherited (Juel-Nielsen & Videbech, 1970; Roy, et al., 1991; Lester, 2002).
While these studies indicate that a family history of suicide can be a risk factor for suicide, they do not suggest that a suicide in the family automatically heightens suicide risk for all family members. Family history is one among many factors that can contribute to a person’s vulnerability or resilience. As with other genetically-linked illnesses and conditions, awareness of possible risk and attention to early signs of problems in oneself or a loved one can be protective if it leads those who have lost a relative to suicide to seek timely treatment or intervention.
Medical Conditions and Pain
Patients with serious medical conditions such as cancer, HIV, lupus, and traumatic brain injury may be at increased risk for suicide. This is primarily due to psychological states such as hopelessness, helplessness, and desire for control over death. Chronic pain, insomnia and adverse effects of medications have also been cited as contributing factors. These findings point to a critical need for increased screening for mental disorders and suicidal ideation and behavior in general medical settings.
Relationship Between Environmental Stressors, Mental Disorders and Suicide Risk
One of the major challenges of suicide research is determining how mental disorders and environmental stressors interact to create a pathway to suicide. Recent research on bullying has provided important new insights into the links between environmental stressors, mental disorders and suicide risk.
Much of the current discourse on bullying and suicide posits a direct causal link between the two. Challenging this assumption, an important recent study that followed high school students for several years after graduation found that exposure to bullying had relatively few long term negative outcomes for the majority of youth. The only subgroup that showed suicidal ideation and behavior in post-high school follow-up was youth who had symptoms of depression at the time they were bullied. Bullied youth who did not have co-existing depression had significantly lower risk for later mental health problems (Klomek, et al., 2011).
Another recent long term study links exposure to prolonged bullying to the development of serious mental disorders in later life. This research, which followed a large sample of youth and their caregivers from childhood to early adulthood, found that those who were bullied through childhood and adolescence had high rates of depression and anxiety disorders in early adulthood. Those with histories of being both victims and bullies had the most adverse outcomes as young adults, with even higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders. In addition, nearly 25% of this group reported suicidal ideation or behavior as an adult. Those who were bullies but not victims showed low levels of depression or anxiety and markedly elevated rates of antisocial personality disorder (Copeland, et al., 2013).
It is important to note that existing research on bullying has looked at the outcome of attempted rather than completed suicide. However, the finding that bullying is most likely to precipitate suicidal thinking and suicide attempts in youth who are already depressed, or who have prolonged involvement as both victims and bullies, points to the role of individual vulnerability in determining the impact of environmental stressors.
That imitative behavior (“contagion”) plays a role in suicide has long been observed. Recent studies have concluded that media coverage of suicide is connected to the increase—or decrease—in subsequent suicides, particularly among adolescents (Sisask & Värnik, 2012). High volume, prominent, repetitive coverage that glorifies, sensationalizes or romanticizes suicide has been found to be associated with an increase in suicides (Bohanna and Wang, 2012). There is also evidence that when coverage includes detailed description of specific means used, the use of that method may increase in the population as a whole (Yip, et al., 2012).
In recent years, the internet has become a particular concern because of its reach and potential to communicate information about notorious suicides and those that occur among celebrities. However, when media follows appropriate reporting recommendations, studies show that the risk of suicide contagion can be decreased. (Bohanna and Wang, 2012).
Access to Lethal Methods of Suicide
There is strong evidence that the availability and use of different methods of suicide impacts suicide rates among different groups in the population and different geographical areas of the world. In the U.S., the most common method of suicide is firearms, used in 51% of all suicides. Currently, firearms are involved in 56% of male suicides and 30% of female suicides. Among U.S. women, the most common suicide method involves poisonous substances, especially overdoses of medications. Poisoning accounts for 37% of female suicides, compared to only 12% of male suicides. Hanging or other means of suffocation are used in about 25% of both male and female suicides.
Postmortem studies of the brains of people who have died by suicide have shown a number of visible differences in the brains of people who died by suicide, compare to those who died from other causes, suicide is a result of a disease of the brain (Mann & Currier, 2012). The brain systems that have been most frequently studied as factors in suicide are the serotonergic system, adrenergic system and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary Axis (HPA), which relate to mood, thinking and stress response, respectively. This research has also identified neurobiological impairments related to depression and other underlying mental disorders, as well as to acute or prolonged stressors. One of the key challenges of neurobiological studies is determining the abnormalities in genes, brain structures or brain function that differentiate depressed people who died by suicide from depressed people who died by other causes.
I close with a poem composed by Arianna Scriptsmith Schaffer, my guest from last week.
I am below looking at myself on the top
And I’m above looking down for your help
I never knew it would come to this threatening drop
But I am on the edge ready to jump to the end of me
I’m out of my body tearfully begging for me to think
To use the reasoning and wisdom to turn away
And to pull away from the deathly brink
Of shadows’ ownership of my soul’s desires
Standing on the skyscraper of my disease
I feel that all hope had been stolen away
My pain and fear makes the enemy pleased
So that is my push to stand up again
If only I took a step back and beheld the view
Of the sun breaking through the morning mist
I would realize that God is here and true
But would I dare to look up and see the beauty? Or would I just jump off the edge?
A revolution of light could break right through
If I boldly said enough is enough! I could stand up right beside you
And I’d be filled and fear nothing in life or death
The skyscraper is a turning point in all lives
Dare to die or dare to live, the choice is up to you
Life is compiled of baby steps and long strides
And yes, even falls… But remember that we can overcome!
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#depression, #suicide, #nationalsuicidepreventionhotline, #americanfoundationforsuicideprevention, #skyscraper, #ariannascriptsmithschaffer,