Depression and Suicide

Depression is the most common mental health issue in the United States. The cause can be physiological/hereditary or situational. A person can have a physical deficiency that a medical physician needs to diagnose. It does not help that our parents or members of our families have been models for us in depression. This sets in our thinking, how to deal with the uncertainties and pain of living. Situational depression occurs through some traumatic event(s) in our life that seems overwhelming, terribly sad, and we are unable to emotionally get through.

Our brain chemistry is complicated, but I want to simplify it, to help explain depression. Serotonin, as well as other chemicals in the brain, keeps an emotional balance. When we go through a season of very sad happenings, the serotonin is dislodged from its place where it works best in our brains. A chemical imbalance occurs and we get dragged down to the point where we can't see our way out. This chemical imbalance can affect our bodies, our minds and our emotions. Our sleep can be affected; either we sleep too much or too little. Sometimes we can't get to sleep for a long time or we wake up and can't get back to sleep. Our appetite is affected. Some people lose weight and some people gain weight. Many people see themselves as failures, like they are being punished. Their guilt increases. They may feel worthless. Their interest in activities that usually make them happy decreases, where some people don't want to do anything at all. People's energy gets sapped. They are irritable, can't make decisions, and sometimes depression leads to suicidal thoughts. If you have contemplated suicide and have made a plan to follow through with ending your life, it is time to seek out some professional help. This is a very serious matter that needs immediate attention.

A common tool to help the therapist and client measure the depth of despair and depression is the Beck's Depression Inventory-II. It is my opinion that a person who scores in the severe or extreme depression range needs professional help to extricate themselves from depression's hold on them. A physician may recommend taking a season of anti-depression medication and therapy to bring the person back into emotional balance. Think of yourself in the middle of Shasta Lake with an inner tube around your waste. You can't swim but the inner tube is holding you up just fine. Boats may come by and splash you, friends may tussle with you but that inner tube keeps you upright and safe. The air in the inner tube is like the serotonin in your brain. Ordinarily, you may have a bad day, but usually you can bounce back soon. Your emotional balance (Serotonin) is working. Depression is like a slow leak in your inner tube. Pretty soon you are struggling to stay above the waterline. All your energy is now being used, just keeping your head above water. That empty inner tube feels like it is dragging you down. An SSRI anti-depression medication will help to fill up your inner tube so that you can have emotional balance again. You obviously still have to deal with your life and problems, but at least you are not having fight just to stay afloat. So for severe and extreme depression, a physician to prescribe medication and a therapist to discuss the side affects and the effectiveness on the medication is appropriate.

In reality, depression is not a noun but a verb. It is action that we take with our words, that we create with our thinking. Try being angry without angry thoughts. Try being happy without happy thoughts. You can't do it. We get jealous through thoughts of jealousy, fearful with fearful thoughts and sad with sad thoughts. Our emotions are directly connected to our thoughts. Depression over takes us because we have surmised that our life or situation is untenable. Our self-talk is continuous and the depressed person is filling their brain with negative thoughts. It is amazing how much better we feel when someone says something kind to us or compliments us. Why? Our brain hears a positive message about us and it is translated it into good feelings. Many client say that they "feel" so much better having come to therapy. I have spoke words of truth and encouragement to them and their brain converted those thoughts into good feelings. The way out of depression is to change your thinking about your situation. The therapist can show you how to do this.

I like to tell the story about Corrie Ten Boom, when she was in the Nazi concentration camp with her sister. Her and her sister had watched as the soldiers killed her parents and her whole family. Corrie's sister was being used sexually by the guards and slept away from Corrie. Corrie slept in a quonset hut with hundreds of other women. They all complained about the abuses of the camp and especially the flees. Flees covered the beds and blankets where they slept. Corrie finally announced to the other women that she thanked God for the flees every night. They thought she was crazy until she explained that the flees kept the guards from molesting them at night. The flee bites still stung and itched as much as the rest of the women, but she turned her suffering into a blessing. Somehow, we who are depressed, need to change our negative thinking about our situation into something positive.

A few words about Suicide

To contemplate suicide is to be completely swept away by negative emotions. People say that they feel overpowered by their negative emotions and can not gain control over their thoughts. They feel powerless to get out of their negative state and their pain, so if they can extinguish their life, they will be rid of their pain and their trapped feelings. Once you reach this stage, it is obvious that your thinking is distorted but it is hard to convince someone going through it. (see my distorted thinking page and see what kind of distorted thinking you are being deceived by) When you are deeply depressed, it is a good idea to NOT make any major decisions in your life, especially ending the very precious gift that life is. It is to be contemplating a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

The negative triad (see page title on the left)is the theory that the way you feel about yourself is usually the way you feel about your surroundings and the same feelings you will have about your future. To contemplate ending your future says a lot about how you see yourself and your surroundings. When you are very depressed, it is not your real authentic self, but the depression that is doing your talking and thinking. Instead of isolating, get out and talk to people, people you trust and feel safe with. Try to get in touch with the real you, not your circumstances and your negative feelings. Find someone to "live for" if you cannot value your own life. This is hard, but you must work through your depression to learn what you must learn, that can be taught no other way. Faith in God, family and friends will help. Get professional help quick! Also try the 24 hour hotline to talk to experienced helpers. 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433.