Depression and Suicide: A Hidden Pandemic?
Food celebrity Anthony Bourdain. Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington. Indian actress Pratyusha Banerjee. Korean comedian Park Ji-Sun.
Yes, all of these are the names of celebrities lauded for their talent and high-quality output. They were also human beings who suffered from depression and ultimately took their own life.
It can seem like another pandemic, losing high visibility personalities to their inner struggles. Most recently we experienced the loss of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst. What is happening here? It can’t just be due to the Covid-19 pandemic - some of these names were lost before coronavirus was even a short article in the back of a newspaper. In fact, this problem has been hiding in plain sight for quite some time now.
People often erroneously attribute these suicides to the “tortured artist” or “troubled celebrity” trope. But that does the disservice of isolating them from the tens of thousands of suicides reported each year in the United States alone. Research shows that approximately 2% of people treated for depression will eventually die by suicide. When we realize 16 million Americans suffer from depression each year, that 2% looks pretty big.
Two out of three people who die by suicide suffer from depression. The correlation is there, and we actually understand why to a certain extent: depression takes hold of our brain’s chemistry, causing life to become gray and melancholy. Things that used to please us become stale, and negativity pervades the life of a depression sufferer.
If the depression and hopelessness are severe enough they may lead a person to suicidal tendencies or an outright attempt. In the celebrity instances, it essentially acts as an amplified tragedy playing out in the public eye. It’s sad but perhaps we can learn from it.
This is because depression is treatable, and addressed early enough the worst outcomes can be avoided in many cases.
First, be on the lookout for warning signs. These may include talking about self-harm, troubling personality change, substance abuse, and reckless or dangerous behaviors.
Second, and quite importantly, comes treatment. There are two sides of depression treatment: self-care, and professional treatment. First we’ll talk about some self-care approaches.
Reach out, be social - Talk to friends, family, and trusted loved ones about the problems you’ve been having and spend time together. Take a walk together, go out for a tasty meal, share some laughs. By getting a different perspective and enjoying the people in our lives, we can feel less alone and find new ways to deal with negative emotions.
Getting off social media - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - all of these can be a lot of fun but they can also reinforce negative views and reactions. Take a break from social media and do some productive activities that you enjoy. This can give your brain a break from the constant bad news and social comparisons, and help you construct a healthy happy inner life.
Go outside - There’s something about heading outside to nature and doing some physical activity that gets the endorphins and feel-good chemicals running through your body. Sometimes a bit of sunshine and fresh air does more than refresh us physically, it can help clear our minds as well.
Take care of yourself - Eat a nutritious diet, keep up with exercise as mentioned previously, and also get good sleep. When your body is healthy, the mind follows. Being in a good physical state helps our energy levels and productivity stay elevated, and keeps us busy doing what we find meaningful as opposed to being stuck in the quagmire of depression.
Sometimes self-care is not enough. In these cases, a trained mental health professional can help you find your way back to happiness. When reaching out to a psychiatrist or psychologist one may expect a good deal of talk therapy, usually using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy where thought patterns are analyzed and then new ways of relating to negativity are explored. In the case of psychiatrists, medication management may be an additional aspect of treatment.
If you suffer from depression and are thinking of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Don’t be afraid to reach out. Bregman Medical Group has decades of experience treating depression and various other disorders. We offer online therapy to your device! Simply schedule an appointment at www.bregmanmd.com or call 786-321-4909.