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This is national suicide prevention week.  Thoughts of suicide are an important sign of depression.  For this reason, national suicide prevention efforts must include people who are depressed.  Those suffering from depression understand how debilitating this can be. They understand first-hand how hopeless and helpless they feel and the kind of thoughts that enter their mind. What we all need to understand that someone with depression does not have a weak moral character. They do not lack moral strength. Depression cannot be willed away. 

Depression does not discriminate. Depression can affect anyone of any race or nationality, rich or poor. But depression and the rate of suicide have increased dramatically in the past two decades, especially for Hispanic girls in their teens and among young African-American boys and men.  National suicide prevention efforts must include men and minorities as they are at particularly high risk for suicide.

Those contemplating suicide often try to communicate how much pain they’re in to others. They often go about this indirectly when revealing their intentions but if questioned directly about their feelings they may admit they’ve been thinking about it.  National suicide prevention week promotes discussion about depression and suicidal thoughts.

Most people contemplating suicide really don’t want to die. They only want their depression to stop. National suicide prevention efforts serve to create hope, support and understanding of suicide and depression.  Talking to depressed loved ones during their time of need could be an extremely valuable life saver for them.

If you ask someone who’s been contemplating suicide if they have been thinking about suicide does not put the idea in their mind. In fact, they may be relieved when someone cares enough to reach out to them and who are concerned about how they feel and what their intentions are. Sitting down with them and asking the difficult questions about whether they’re thinking about suicide may just be the beginning of getting them the help they need and making the choice to live and get the help they need.  Just letting them know that you learned about national suicide prevention week can open the door to this important conversation.

Just trying to distract them and cheer them up isn’t going to do the trick. They may very well feel you don’t understand their depression and possibly be ashamed of their suicidal thoughts. A better approach would be to let them know that you are open, available and non-judgmental about them, listening very closely, and accepting that they experiencing serious symptoms of depression, can save lives.

Because eight out of ten people who take their lives do give clues along the way of their suicidal intentions, national suicide prevention week can help draw attention to these important clues. When looking back there were warnings to others in their life but they’re not always expressed verbally and may be hard to decipher.  However, most people who take their lives do not leave a suicide note.

It’s unusual for someone to actually take their life without letting anyone know how they’ve been feeling. The ones who do leave warning signs do so as a cry for help. The fact is that most people contemplating suicide feel trapped, depressed, hopeless and don’t know what else to do. Research has shown that over 70% who do make threats of taking their lives either attempt suicide or carry it through.  Therefore, in line with national suicide prevention efforts, it is extremely important to treat any mention of suicide seriously.

Most people contemplating suicide experience some ambivalence about doing it because they’re really torn between living and dying. These people are depressed and just want it to stop. They don’t really want to die, but don’t know how else to stop their pain. When others realize the person is conflicted they may think they’re not really serious, but that is not usually the case. You can’t help if you don’t realize what the symptoms are, and ambivalence about wanting to die is very common in severely depressed individuals.  Because ambivalence about suicide is the norm, it also creates an opportunity for national suicide prevention efforts.

The rate of suicide seems to increase within the first three months of coming out of a state of severe depression. So people need to be aware that if an improvement occurs in someone’s emotional well-being does not necessarily indicate that the risk has been lowered. For this reason it is very important that people remain in treatment, even after they begin to feel better.  Discontinuing treatment for depression too soon can be fatal.

Those who have actually attempted to take their life will very likely make another attempt. Depression can be a recurring disorder.  Of those people who have successfully taken their lives, 80% had a prior suicide attempt. If you know someone who has made a prior attempt, and they are again or remain depressed, take advantage of the national suicide prevention efforts by opening up a conversation with them about their safety and well being.

National suicide prevention efforts recognize that many of those who suffer from depression have contemplated the option of suicide. When you bring this out in the open and discuss this with them it helps them to identify their problems more accurately and reduces their sense of isolation and aloneness. One goal of national suicide prevention week is to increase these conversations because they may be the first step towards choosing to live and receiving treatment for depression.

Because our treatment for depression relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods in national suicide prevention interventions.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders that are known to play a role in national suicide prevention.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies and supports the national suicide prevention efforts.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression that can result in recovery.  Support national suicide prevention week and remember that Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment if you or someone you love is at risk for suicide.