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Is someone near you suicidal? Get help quick

Health advice

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POSTED: July 26, 2007 5:02 a.m.
Do you have a life that is always peaceful and even-keel? If so, I want your secret.
Most people experience both good and bad times in a week, hopefully with more laughter than tears.
While we can’t expect everything to run smoothly every day, we shouldn’t expect to stay “in the dumps” either.
When “bad” times and feelings last for more than a few weeks or when you have difficulty functioning in your daily life, what you may be experiencing could be more than the temporary “blues.” It is not normal to feel depressed for weeks, no matter your age, gender or health situation.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting more than 19 million Americans each year. Major depressive disorder, manic depression and dysthymia (a milder, longer-lasting form of depression) are all known as clinical depression.
Many people believe depression isn’t serious, that they can treat it themselves or that it is a personal weakness rather than a serious medical illness. This often causes them to delay treatment, which is a shame because clinical depression is very treatable, with more than 80 percent of those who seek treatment showing improvement.  
Depression must be treated by a physician or qualified mental health professional. Self treatment or advising a friend can have serious consequences.
Listed below are symptoms of depression. If you or someone you love has five or more of these symptoms for a period of two weeks or more, you should see your doctor or a qualified mental health professional.
• Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feeling or mood
• Sleeping too much or too little and waking in the middle of the night or early morning
• Either reduced appetite (and weight loss) or increased appetite (and weight gain)
• Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex
• Restlessness and irritability
• Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (such as chronic pain or digestive disorders)
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
• Fatigue or loss of energy
• Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
• Thoughts of suicide or death
Many things can contribute to clinical depression. For some people, a number of factors seem to be involved, while for others a single factor can cause the illness. People sometimes become depressed for no apparent reason. It is bad enough that depression causes people to lose pleasure from their daily life, but it can also complicate other medical conditions and be serious enough to lead to suicide.
A suicide attempt is a clear indication that something is gravely wrong in a person’s life. Most people who commit suicide have a mental or emotional disorder. The most common underlying disorder is depression, with 30-70 percent of suicide victims suffering from major depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder.
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 1 percent of all deaths. More people die from suicide than from homicide and among young people aged 15-24, suicide is the third leading cause of death.
More years of life are lost to suicide than to any other single cause except heart disease and cancer. Annually 30,000 Americans commit suicide and an additional 500,000 Americans attempt it. The actual ratio of attempts to completed suicides is approximately 10 to 1.
Eight out of 10 suicidal people give some sign of their intentions. Although they may not call prevention centers, suicidal people usually do seek help. For example, nearly three-fourths of all suicide victims visit a doctor in the four months before their deaths, and half in the month before.
People who talk about suicide, threaten to commit suicide, or call suicide crisis centers are 30 times more likely to kill themselves. Trust your instincts when they tell you that someone may be in trouble. Talk with the person about your concerns and ask direct questions without being judgmental.
Listen, listen, listen! Never act shocked or judgmental and do not counsel the person yourself. Calmly determine if the person has a specific plan to carry out the suicide. The more detailed the plan, the greater the risk usually is.
Do not leave the person alone and do not let yourself be sworn to secrecy. Get professional help, even if the person resists. Eighty percent of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully.
Warning signs that may indicate suicide is being considered are:
1. Verbal suicide threats such as, “You’d be better off without me” or “Maybe I won’t be around.”
2. Expressions of hopelessness and helplessness.
3. Previous suicide attempts.
4. Daring or risk-taking behavior.
5. Personality changes. Depression.
6. Giving away prized possessions.
7. Lack of interest in future plans.
Suicide rates increase with age and are highest among Americans over age 65, especially if they are divorced or widowed. After age 75, the rate is three times higher than average, and among white men over 80, it is six times higher than average.
Another great instigator of suicide is substance abuse. It may be involved in at least half of all cases. About 20 percent of suicides are alcohol abusers, and the lifetime rate of suicide among alcoholics is at least three or four times the average. Completed suicides are more likely to be men over 45 who are depressed or alcoholic.
If someone you know exhibits signs of depression that is not improving, help them by listening, but make sure they get professional help. As you can see, suicide is not something that happens to someone else’s friend or loved one.

Ratcliffe works with the Coastal Health District, but is based in Hinesville, where you can call her at 876-2173.
 

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