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Suicide January 19, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Depression, mental illness.
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Sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers have all committed suicide and left behind a train wreck of guilt for their friends and loved ones. “What signs did I miss? Is there anything I could have done to prevent it? I must have failed him/her in some way.” All these thoughts and more go through the brains of those left behind.

At the mental hospital, I got to know  five people who ended up there because they tried to commit suicide. That isn’t really a big surprise, since suicide “failures” (people who were unsuccessful in their suicide attempt)  usually end up at the psych ward of mental hospitals. I was shocked at how many people in the mental hospital made no secret of their desire to kill themselves.

In fact,the mental hospital went to extreme lengths to avoid having suicide on their premise. There are no glass makeup bottles allowed. No hair dryers (because of their long cords), no eating utensils except for a plastic combination fork and spoon (spork), no shoestrings, and obviously no razors.  Although t is inconvenient for those of us who aren’t suicide risks to go without those things, it is worth it if someone is prevented from taking their own life.

As I said in previous articles, depression is by and large a brain chemistry issue. In fact, research suggests that there may be a relationship between suicidal behavior and decreased levels the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.  While antidepressants, including the class of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (drugs that keep serotonin around longer) often successfully treat depression, researchers are currently investigating whether these medications can also reduce suicidal behavior.

Genetic factors likely contribute to the risk for suicidal behavior. It’s one of the many psychiatric disturbances associated, at least in part, with genetic causation. Major psychiatric illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, certain personality disorders, and substance abuse (including alcoholism), which run in families, increase the risk of suicide behavior.  This doesn’t mean that suicide is inevitable. It just means that a vulnerability to suicidal behavior may exist and should be monitored if a psychiatric disorder is diagnosed.

Interestingly, when a suicidal adolescent or young adult is exposed to suicidal behavior in others (including friends and famous people), the risk for suicide goes up in that adolescent or young adult.

Eventually, hopefully in the  near future, brain scans will routinely screen for depression. That’s important because over 90 percent of people who commit suicide have depression. That will move depression and other mental illnesses from a “mental” disorder to a physical disorder that can be detected by way of a scientific test, which should help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and result in more people getting the help they need so they don’t want to commit suicide.

How big a problem is suicide? Over 30,000 Americans take their own lives each year, making suicide the 11th most common form of death in the U.S.  Though exact numbers on attempted suicide are difficult to calculate, it is estimated that there are somewhere between eight and twenty five attempts made for every “successful” suicide.

Men complete suicide four times more often than females, though more women than men report suicide attempts. The most common method of suicide completion for both sexes is by firearms, with white males comprising seventy three percent of all suicide deaths and eighty percent of all firearms deaths. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-to-24-year-olds, and white males 85 years old and older comprise the highest rate of completion (more than six times the national rate).

Those statistics are why my Least Restrictive Treatment plan, required before I could be released from the hospital, required me to get rid of all of my guns before I was allowed out of there.

If someone threatens suicide or starts giving away his/her possessions, please take them seriously and intervene. You will save their life.