By the time you finish reading this essay, about 5 people will have died from suicide; and even more attempted it, resulting in about 800,000-1,000,000 suicides a year. This is shocking, however, there is a way to decrease this number by recognizing when someone is at risk for suicide and helping them receive treatment. One major factor that puts someone at risk for suicide is a mental illness like depression. In the novel Ordinary People by Judith Guest, the main character, Conrad, has depression and attempted to kill himself. Through treatment at a hospital, his psychiatrist, and support he is able to gain hope about his future again. By helping people with depression and taking it seriously, the total number of suicides a year can decrease.
To know if someone is at risk, you must know the warning signs of depression and suicide. Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness, irritability or frustration, anxiety, and restlessness. Someone with depression may experience loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, sleeping too much or too little, fatigue, weight gain or weight loss, having trouble concentrating, suicidal thoughts or attempts, and unexplained pains or headaches. Warning signs of suicide could be mood swings, talk of wanting to kill themselves, looking for a way to kill themselves, feeling like a burden, increase in use of drugs or alcohol, feeling trapped or hopeless, or showing sudden rage. Risk factors for suicide could be a number of things like mental disorders, alcohol or drug abuse, history of trauma, a previous suicide attempt, suicide in the family, loss of job or relationship, or lack of support. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education describes risk factors as not a cause or able to predict suicide, “rather they are characteristics that make it more likely an individual consider, attempt, or die by suicide.” If you think you or someone you know has depression or is at risk of suicide, you can contact a lifeline at https://screening.mentalhealthamerica.net or call your doctor to learn more.
In many cases, people with depression do not receive treatment. According to nimh.nim.gov, 60% of adolescents with a major depressive episode did not receive treatment; npr reports that even in the most developed countries, only 1 in 5 adults seek treatment. Treatment for depression is said to be 60-80% effective. So why do people not want treatment? It could be a number of reasons, like being too scared to receive treatment, or simply not being able to pay for therapy or medication. In an article published by Alice G Walton, it states some theories as to why people don’t want treatment, “One reason may be that even when diagnosed, people may be so resistant to the idea that they have depression, because of lingering stigma or a lack of information about what depression actually is, that they may choose not to get treated.” This shows that there is a stigma around depression, and it could be a reason that some people refuse treatment. In that same article, study author Beth Waitzfelder states, "People often feel embarrassed, ashamed, or that it is their own fault they are depressed. For these reasons they may not want to acknowledge that they are depressed, or seek treatment." Taking someone’s depression seriously and giving them support can help reduce this stigma around depression. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education says that a risk factor for suicide is lack of social support and the stigma associated with asking for help. Without this stigma, people may be more likely to take their own depression seriously and search for treatment.
Many people would argue that not everyone who has depression commits suicide, and not everyone who commits suicide is depressed. Although this is true, depression can increase the risk of suicide in a person. According to the American Association of Suicidology, depression is still present in 50% of suicides. They also state that if depression is left untreated, it can lead to comorbid mental disorders, recurrent episodes, and a higher risk of suicide. This indicates that treated depression can decrease a person’s risk of suicide.
Taking someone’s depression seriously and helping them find help can decrease their chances of committing suicide. Mentalhealth.org.uk says that “The attitudes we hold towards people who attempt to take their lives can influence the course of their condition. The isolation that suicidal people feel can be reinforced by a judgmental approach in which their behaviour is viewed as manipulative or selfish. By stepping beyond our personal assumptions, and showing care and respect for the people behind the behaviours, we can help them share their feelings and help prevent suicides.” By doing everything we can to help someone with depression, we can decrease the suicide rate.
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