By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Depression hits all types of people. It doesn’t matter if you are rich and famous — such as designer Kate Spade or renowned celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain — or some kids at an Ohio school district, where six teens committed suicide in six months earlier this year.
Suicide rates increased by 25 percent across the United States over nearly two decades ending in 2016, according to research published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-five states experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30 percent and almost every state saw an increase.
“Suicide continues to increase, and depression is a lot more common than we think,” said physician Ahmed Nizar, medical director of the comprehensive psychiatric emergency program at St. Joseph’s Health Hospital in Syracuse. “This is not a problem we can just ignore because it is in the forefront of our lives and we have to be vocal about it.”
In New York, the suicide rate increased by 28.8 percent between 1999 and 2016.The latest statistics show about 45,000 lives were lost to suicide each year. Veterans made up about 18 percent of adult suicides but represent about 8.5 percent of the US adult population. Middle-aged adults had the highest increase.
Nizar talks about five issues, stereotypes, and warning signs for those suffering with depression that could lead to suicide.
1. Depression isn’t selective
It is difficult to know what someone is battling with inside. Viewing their lives from the outside could offer only a glimpse into their reality. Riches and a glamorous life doesn’t always tell the entire story. Everyone has their own struggles even as they are showing off a brave outward face.
“Obviously the recent deaths of celebrities committing suicide has brought this to people’s attention. They see people who are incredibly successful and rich and think they have it all and wonder why they would do it,” said Nizar. “The truth is, depression can hit anyone even the 1 percent of financially successful people. Finding happiness doesn’t just happen because you can afford to be happy.”
2. There are warning signs
Even though individuals can experience depression and mental health issues in various ways, there remains some common threads and symptoms. People who experience financial or social loss, inability to sleep or sleeping too much and sudden physical illness can lead to individuals putting themselves in a dark place.
“Watching someone’s mood is very essential in the process. If you have a friend or family member become impulsive or aggressive, if they start saying unhealthy thoughts like ‘I just can’t carry on anymore’ or ‘I don’t have anything to live for,’ don’t ignore those signs,” said Nizar. “If they are drinking significantly more or you find them spiraling after a relationship ended, you have to pay attention.”
Nizar added that if you know someone who is consistently feeling anxious it can lead to them being more depressed.
Drug use is another cause of death that is on the rise, according to the CDC study. The rising opioids issue has caused significant dilemmas in the healthcare industry. Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. The misuse of and addiction to opioids — including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. There has been some link to suicide and opioid and drug use.
“Substance abuse and depression can go together. And if left untreated, the struggle will continue to rise,” said Nizar. “I know people who have dealt with years of back pain and they never see it getting better. It makes them feel horrible and anxious, especially if their treatment feels like it has stalled. Sadly, people go into their doctor’s office for one ailment to fix an issue and then can come out with an addiction to painkillers.”
4. Monitor their social media
Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube allow people to create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content. It also allows people to share their thoughts. And in the 21st century, people are not afraid of sharing, which could give others a window to what is going on in their lives.
“I have seen a trend that people are more openly expressing their thoughts. We see people on social media that are saying things about how they feel that should have you worried if you know them well,” added Nizar. “They could be reaching out and it could be a cry for help.”
Human beings are meant to feel connection to others. But when somebody suddenly relishes feeling isolated or tries to cut themselves off from a large segment of family and friends, it is a distinct warning sign that depression may have overtaken them.
“This is why some of the highest causes of suicide is after a broken relationship. Relationships give us a sense of worth, and without that, a person can feel like there is nothing to live for,” added Nizar. “When you see someone experience that you need to talk with them. Depression is not something that goes away with an afternoon nap.”