It’s National Suicide Prevention Week, a time to remind people of the importance of getting a diagnosis and receive treatment. With an estimated 1.38 million suicide attempts in the United States in 2019 alone, it is vital that everyone learn what to look for — and how to talk about it.
Know the Signs
While the reasons for suicide can be as numerous as the individuals who consider it, often the underlying cause is major depression. This is a serious disease, which brings feelings of sadness and worthlessness, affects one in six people throughout their lifetime, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Signs of depression can include:
- Changes in appetite, including weight loss and gain
- Trouble sleeping
- Purposeless activity, such as pacing and handwringing
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities
Treatment is Available
Thankfully, treatment is available for depression so negative feelings are less likely to lead to suicidal thoughts. It’s important to work with a certified therapist, who will likely offer a variety of therapy options to help find what works best for the individual. These treatment plans can include:
- An antidepressant drug, including:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) like sertraline or Lexapro
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) like Cymbalta
- Tricyclic antidepressants like Nardil
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) like Parnate
- Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy
- Lifestyle changes, such as incorporating healthy food options, daily exercise, and sleeping well
- Other procedures, such as electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation
People who are diagnosed with depression or another mental health condition should never discontinue their medication without first talking to their doctor. Many medications cannot be taken with other medications or even certain foods like grapefruit or pickles.
It’s a good idea for people who have depression to also avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. Often, this is “self-medication” that can make symptoms worse and depression harder to treat in the long term. Instead, it’s better to learn about the condition and recognize patterns and habits that can be warning signs.
Research is still underway for alternative treatments for depression. St. John’s wort and Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help, as well as holistic treatments that make it easier to increase mindfulness. Techniques such as acupuncture, meditation, and massage therapy can be helpful as well.