HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT SUICIDE?
We all know that suicide is a big issue. But how much do we really understand what’s going on?
Not happy? Feeling down? Hate your life? You’re not alone. Everyone goes through bad days, bad weeks, even. We all suffer setbacks or disappointments in life, so you cannot expect to avoid all sadness and discontent.
But is your negative outlook just the passing blues or is it something more? Could you be suffering from depression? The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 300 million people on this planet are experiencing this common mental disorder, ranging from mild cases to major, debilitating events. Unfortunately, many of these cases go undiagnosed, and thus untreated. Yes, there are effective treatments for depression, so it does not have to have a permanent impact on your well-being.
What is Depression
What is depression? While it is quite common and even natural to have negative feelings at times, a low mood that persists for a period of days could be a sign of depression. Major depression has been described as an episode of dejection/apathy or sorrow, that along with other symptoms lasts at least two weeks in a row and is interfering with normal daily routines. It is important to note that depression is NOT a sign of weakness or a negative nature. It is a major public health issue and treatment is available for this medical ailment.
Symptoms of Depression
What are the symptoms of depression? The leading indicators of this disorder are a feeling of sadness or melancholy, accompanied by a lack of enthusiasm for or enjoyment of living. For instance, not looking forward to customarily happy occasions such as birthdays, holidays, or vacations. Other warning signs may include constant feelings of guilt or unworthiness, hopelessness, and repeated contemplation of death or suicide. These should not be ignored.
Sometimes there are physical symptoms linked to depression. Some of these manifestations are:
- Fatigue and reduced energy
- Sleeping too much
- Insomnia, particularly waking too early
- Continual pain or achiness, cramps, headaches, or digestion issues that do not respond to treatment
Because chemicals in the brain influence both your mood and pain, depression can cause other underlying health problems feel more severe, especially chronic pain. Studies have shown that treating depression can improve the other co-existing maladies.
Other signs of depression can be noticeable changes in your appetite or weight fluctuations. Some of those affected find their appetite increasing, though others may lose their desire for food completely. A large gain in or loss of weight may be evidence of depression. While this is not always the case, and other factors may be contributing causes, the possibility should not be overlooked.
Left untreated, the emotional and physical rigors caused by depression can have catastrophic effects on the lives of those experiencing the condition. Depressed people many times have difficulty concentrating or making even basic decisions. This, in turn, can damage or destroy livelihoods, leisure pursuits, and relationships. Sufferers may find no joy or satisfaction in activities that they previously loved, including social interactions, hobbies, or even sex. In severe cases, depression can even be deadly.
Depression and Suicide Attempts
A depressed person is more likely to make a suicide attempt. Talking about suicide or death, making threats to hurt others (either verbally or in online posts), or behaving in a risky or aggressive manner are all warning signs and should not be taken lightly or ignored. If someone seems suicidal, it is urgent to get help from a suicide prevention hotline. In Australia, the national hotline information is:
Phone Hotline: 13 11 14
24 Hour service
There are also regional hotlines available by checking online. Do not hesitate to call if you observe someone displaying suicidal tendencies. If you are having thoughts of suicide, go to the hospital emergency room immediately to receive treatment and counseling.
What Causes Depression?
At this time, doctors and researchers are unsure about what causes depression. The disorder can occur in anyone, but genetics are believed to play a role. If a parent or sibling has depression, your risk of developing the disorder is increased. Gender also plays a role, as women are two times as likely as men to suffer depression.
One leading theory about what causes depression is that the chemical function or even the structure of the brain becomes altered. The parts of the brain that govern our moods may have diminished efficiency when depression occurs. Drugs that have been developed to address depression are supposed to promote better communication between the nerve cells. Even though stress may act as a trigger for depression, many experts believe that a person must already be predisposed to developing the condition. Other suspected triggers are alcohol/drug abuse, some medications, hormonal shifts, or even the time of year.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that affects up to 20% of people in certain areas of the globe. The problem is less severe in places where sunlight is maximized, but as the daylight hours decline in late fall and early winter, the lack of natural light can have an impact on the mental well-being of those who are more susceptible. (SAD) is sometimes incorrectly called “winter blues”, “winter depression”, and “seasonal depression”.
In parts of southern Australia where there is a high amount of rainfall and many hours of darkness during the winter months, a simple case of “winter blues” can increase in severity to a more serious affliction, according to Psychology Professor Greg Murray of Swinburne University.
“[Seasonal affective disorder] is a condition where a person has recurrent episodes of diagnosable depression and those episodes fall in winter each year,” he stated.
Differing from the common decline in mood that many people experience during winter, SAD is a genuine clinical condition. It is believed that the culprit is the decrease in the exposure to light in the winter.
“It’s as serious as any other depression and needs to be dealt with quite assertively,” Professor Murray added. He did say that cases of SAD in Australia were relatively rare. “Our best bet is something like 1 in 300 [Australians] may warrant that diagnosis.”
Another severe condition that affects new mothers is known as postpartum depression. This is not as simple as the “baby blues” that distresses as many as three of four women who have recently given birth. Nearly 12% will develop a more acute dark mood that persists even as the baby flourishes. The symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as a major depression. A significant difference is that the baby’s welfare may be jeopardized. A mother might have difficulty bonding with and enjoying her newborn infant. Child neglect could become a risk. In extreme cases, the mother can even develop suicidal/homicidal thoughts, and she could possibly become a danger herself and to the child.
A growing problem worldwide is the number of young people who are afflicted with depression. Mirroring the global increase is the upsurge in mental health issues among teenagers in Australia. According to Mission Australia’s 2016 Youth Survey:
- Almost a quarter (22.8%) of teens between 15 -19 display symptoms of likely significant mental illness, an increase from 18.7% five years ago.
- Teen girls are over twice as likely as boys to suffer acute psychological distress, although the rate of suicide for males remains higher
- Close to a third (31.6%) of Indigenous Australians are affected
- The three main issues teens face are: dealing with stress; difficulties at school or studying; and clinical depression. Other factors include bullying, family disharmony, and suicide.
Those older teens (aged 18 – 19), and Indigenous Australians were more apt to display indicators of severe psychological distress. Of great concern was the alarming increase in the number of young women affected, shown to be 28.6% in 2016. This marks a surge of over 6% from five years prior.
Catherine Yeomans, CEO of Mission Australia is urging state and federal governments to do more to combat the problem.
“We are talking about an alarming number of young people facing serious mental illness, often in silence and without accessing the help they need,” she stated.
“The effects of mental illness at such a young age can be debilitating and incredibly harmful to an individual’s quality of life, academic achievement, and social participation both in the short term and long term.”
Some very important things to remember about depression is that it is a real illness. It affects people in different ways. If you have depression, you are not alone. Depression is a treatable condition. If you feel that you may be suffering from depression, contact your doctor. He or she can help with your symptoms and get you on your way to recovery.