By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Depression hits all types of people. It doesn’t matter if you are rich and famous — such as designer Kate Spade or renowned celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain — or like kids at an Ohio school district, which recently reported that six teens committed suicide in six months earlier this year.
Suicide rates increased by 25 percent across the United States over nearly two decades ending in 2016, according to research published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-five states experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30 percent and almost every state saw an increase.
“When you hear a family member or friend saying ‘I wish I just didn’t wake up this morning’ or ‘I wish I was dead’, it is important not to dismiss those statements,” said Pauline Stahlbrodt, Ph.D.,who manages the mental health clinic at Rochester Regional Health’s Evelyn Brandon Health Center.
Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families and communities.
A combination of individual, relationship, community and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide, including family history of suicide, previous attempts, history of alcohol and substance and feelings of hopelessness, said Stahlbrodt.
“Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the US right now, and it’s one of the three causes that is actually increasing recently so we do consider it a public health problem,” said physician Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, in a press release issued recently.
In New York, the suicide rate increased by 28.8 percent between 1999 and 2016. Nationwide, the latest statistics show about 45,000 lives were lost to suicide each year.
“There is a lot of shame in admitting that life is overwhelming,” said Stahlbrodt. “Because of the stigma, people often feel like they can’t turn to anyone. There is a stigma in the religious community about depression as well so some people just hide how they are feeling. It can be very isolating.”
Depression isn’t selective. It is difficult to know what someone is battling with inside. Viewing their lives from the outside could offer only a glimpse into their reality. Riches and a glamorous life doesn’t always tell the entire story. Everyone has their own struggles even as they are showing off a brave outward face.
“You see every type of person come to our doors to talk about depression” said Stahlbrodt. “We need to eliminate the stereotype that if you are rich, famous or just overall successful that you don’t have any problems.”
“There is a lot of shame in admitting that life is overwhelming. Because of the stigma, people often feel like they can’t turn to anyone.”
Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube allow people to create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content. It also allows people to share their thoughts. And in the 21st century, people are not afraid of sharing, which could give them a window into what is going on in others lives. Facebook already created certain mechanism allowing users to flag posts from those contemplating self-harm but now it has a new feature. This feature uses artificial intelligence to detect those posts without anyone reporting that they are there. Other social media outlets are also monitoring those who may write suicidal thoughts.
“People are putting in their social media posts phrases like ‘I can’t do it anymore,’” said Stahlbrodt. “They may be reaching out with those phrases so you have to pay attention. It is a clear sign of the times that we are reaching people where they are at.”
In addition, social media companies are also looking to create suicide prevention resources which could be a great help for the millennial generation.
Even though individuals can experience depression and mental health issues in various ways, there remains some common threads and symptoms. People who experience financial or social loss, inability to sleep or sleeping too much and sudden physical illness can lead to individuals putting themselves in a dark place.
“You have to watch because typically you see a distinct change of behavior,” Stahlbrodt. “People start avoiding social situations, stop hanging out with family and friends or they don’t enjoy doing the things they used to do.”
Stahlbrodt also said watch for someone whose appearance has dramatically changed whether they look disheveled, lack of hygiene and personal care or just start being impulsive.
In addition, dramatic life events can take a toll on everyone. Veterans made up about 18 percent of adult suicides but represent about 8.5 percent of the US adult population. Middle-aged adults had the highest increase.
Human beings are meant to feel connection to others. But when they suddenly relish feeling isolated or try to cut themselves off from a large segment of family and friends, it is a distinct warning sign that depression may have overtaken them. Other sudden events also have been known to cause depression.
“Divorce, a break up of a meaningful relationship, finding out you have an illness and losing your job can be challenging shifts in life and among some of the biggest catalyst,” said Stahlbrodt.
Drug use was another cause of death that is on the rise, according to the CDC study. The rising opioids issue have caused significant dilemmas in the healthcare industry. Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. There has been some link to suicide and opioid and drug use.
“The opioid addiction crisis is very powerful. You have a lot of people who become addicted quickly or even accidentally overdose,” said Stahlbrodt.