The truth: every 13 minutes, someone in the United States commits suicide. It isn’t subtle. It isn’t quite. It’s an emotional hurricane in the lives of people left behind.
Why do we whisper about suicide?
The stigma: people who commit suicide are weak, selfish, crazy, afraid, took the easy way out. This is the sort of thing that couldn’t happen to you.
We whisper about suicide because it is easier than understanding the truth. That may seem harsh at first, but if we are going to have an honest discussion about suicide, we need to admit that we are avoiding the conversation because it makes us uncomfortable. It may never be easy to talk about suicide, but if we don’t, we can’t prevent it.
What leads to suicide?
Untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide. Depression is real and it can affect anyone. It is more than just a feeling of sadness. It is a mental disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and it affects how people feel, think, and act. It is a treatable medical illness just like cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
Nationally, nearly 1 in 10 people will experience depression this year. In Utah, the rate is even higher. In fact, Utah ranks among the highest in the country for rates of both mental illness and suicide.
If you’re depressed, don’t be ashamed or afraid. Don’t let embarrassment or fear keep you from getting help. Recognize the symptoms early and get treatment to stop the disease from getting worse.
Kids and teens can have depression too.
Two percent of children and up to 8% of teenagers have depression each year. Children and teenagers demonstrate the same symptoms as adults with a few additional ones. These behaviors don’t always mean a child is depressed, but pay attention to when a child or teenager changes their behavior and shows severe or ongoing symptoms.
A teen might become overly secretive, sullen, or sleepy. Their school performance and social activity with their friends may also be affected.
In younger kids, behavior changes like bed-wetting, tearfulness, or self-destructive actions like head-banging are more noticeable. A child might complain about stomachaches or headaches or say things like, “I never do anything right.”
If you think you’re depressed, get help.
There are a number of options available to you. The important thing is to ask for help.
Make an appointment with a counselor. “Talk therapy” can help you understand your depression and work through issues. Counseling may work as well as medication for treating mild to moderate depression.
Make an appointment with your primary care physician. Your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant medication that helps balance the chemicals in the brain.
Take care of yourself. Do your part to keep up with treatment and stay in touch with your healthcare team. Rebuild your confidence by staying active in daily routines if possible.
Use the support around you. This may come from your family, friends, and treatment providers.
NAMI of Utah (National Alliance on Mental Illness) offers free information, education and support. They can be reached at 801.323.9900.
Together we can prevent suicide.
Depression symptoms can lead a person to think of ending their life. If you or a loved one are having these thoughts, consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK.
The more you know about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of depression, the better you’ll be able to manage it or help a loved one manage it.
When we stop whispering about suicide, we can do more to prevent it.