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Depression treatable, need not end in suicide

The recent suicide of Robin Williams highlights the lethality of depression.

Suicide is a significant cause of death in all age groups and is the eighth leading cause of death among Americans. In fact, there are far more suicides each year than homicides. And there are an estimated 12 attempted suicides for every one suicide death.

The causes of suicide are complex and determined by multiple factors.

There is some reason to believe there may be a familial predisposition; substance abuse can be a risk factor; and even impulsiveness can predispose one to suicide. However, depression is a very important risk factor and plays a large role in suicide and suicide attempts.

An estimated 6 percent to 12 percent of the U.S. population will experience depression at some time, and a recent study by the Lutheran Foundation demonstrated that northeast Indiana residents are not exempted from this medical issue.

Yes, depression is a medical condition just like high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic health conditions.

While it affects how you feel and behave, it is not a mood or a phase or a situation where one needs to “snap out of it” – it is a treatable health condition

Depression is thought to involve changes in brain neurotransmitters. Serotonin and norepinephrine are thought to be the primary neurotransmitters involved, but dopamine has also been related to depression. Research has shown that a change in the functional balance of these neurotransmitters causes certain types of depression (i.e., decreased norepinephrine causes dullness and lethargy and decreased serotonin causes irritability, hostility, and suicidal ideation).

Other factors such as genetics and other chronic conditions may also affect neurotransmitters and/or have an independent influence on depression.

There are a number of depression treatments available.

Medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) are very effective for most people.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can significantly affect depression (and anxiety) without the use of medicine, and these skills can be taught to anyone.

Talk to your doctor, share your concerns and together you will arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan that will be effective.

Just as you would not ignore the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke, do not ignore the warning signs of suicide:

• Appearing depressed or sad most of the time. (Untreated depression is the No. 1 cause of suicide.)

• Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself.

• Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means.

• Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person.

• Feeling hopeless.

• Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge.

• Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking

• Feeling trapped – like there's no way out.

• Increasing alcohol or drug use.

• Withdrawing from friends, family and society.

• Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or the opposite, sleeping all the time.

• Experiencing dramatic mood changes.

• Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life.

It should be noted that some people who die by suicide do not show any suicide warning signs.

If you or someone you know exhibits any of the above signs, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional, your doctor or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

For more information go to http://www.mental​

Remember, this is a treatable health issue.