Suicide is always a difficult topic to discuss and is a muted topic in our everyday society. In a country where suicide is the tenth leading cause of death every year, it is an all too real and heartbreaking reality that discussions surrounding it are only often spurred when public figures take their own lives. Plain and simple, suicide remains the tragic finale to the lives of many individuals struggling with mental health problems like depression or substance abuse, and it is on the rise while we keep it in the dark.
Suicide and Depression
Studies show that depression, and other mood disorders, are the number one risk factors for depression. As suicide rates remain far too high, it is not surprising that major depression is also quite prevalent and a true public health concern. Studies show that roughly 16% of individuals will suffer from major depression at some point in their lives and this rate seems to be increasing. Even more concerning is the fact that the vast majority of individuals struggling with depression will experience multiple episodes of the disorder throughout the course of their lifetime. As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that major depression and suicide results in yearly economic costs of billions of dollars.
Who is More Prone to Suicide Risk?
Of note, the risk for suicide is highest among older, white men who are depressed (though this isn’t to say that the risk is not great among older, non-white men as well). Research has yet to fully explain this, perhaps, surprising statistic, but it is a point of concern nonetheless. Popular media and everyday experience suggests that one possibility for this elevated risk of suicide among men is due to society’s message that “real men don’t show emotion”. Though this credo is not as firmly entrenched as it once was, it is still a prevailing thought among many. Given this unfortunate state of affairs, it logically and sadly follows that men are much less likely than women to seek help for depression or addiction treatment until it is too late. Furthermore, men typically use more lethal methods such as firearms when they choose to end their lives – attributing to the reasons why suicide rates are higher among older men.
Why Aren’t Suicide Risks Seeking Help?
Perhaps the true tragedy lies in the fact that there are effective treatments for the conditions, like depression, that may put an individual in a dark enough place to contemplate taking their own life. There are individual and group therapies, medication options, and even neurostimulation treatments. Yet a huge proportion of individuals who are truly suffering continue to go untreated due to a fear of being stigmatized or a lack of insight into the condition they are afflicted with. As the underlying condition worsens, a person may begin to suffer to the point that all hope leaves them and is replaced by a belief that suicide may be the only path to relief.
People at risk for suicide should know that there are alternative paths to suicide and it is never too late to seek them even if it may seem that way in the darkest of hours. Following the loss of one of our most beloved stars, Robin Williams, perhaps it is a fitting honor to him, and all those who continue to suffer as he did, that we don’t let this topic fall back into shadows.
If you or someone you know has experienced suicidal thoughts that have occurred continuously and seem to be increasing in frequency and length, please contact our team at 919.636.5240.
To Your Health and Happiness,
Dr. Matt Bader