‘There is Hope’ — What a Mental Health Professional Wants You to Understand About Depression and Suicide

Man-looking-upThe tragic death of comedian Robin Williams has left people wondering how this could happen to a man who was loved by millions of people around the world. And while Facebook feeds and online comment boards are filled with people talking about suicide, Andrew Jolly, crisis center lead clinician at West Lake Center, Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois, says many people still do not understand what depression really is.

Disappointed is not depressed

“In our society we overuse the word depression,” Jolly said. “We say we are ‘depressed’ that we failed a test or we missed our favorite TV show.’ The emotion talked about in these cases is disappointment, not depression. Perhaps we need a new word for the illness of depression so that people might take it more seriously.”

Jolly describes the intensity of depression, which he says is not just “self-pity” or “wallowing” in sorrows. Depression can be sparked by adverse life events in which the grief doesn’t subside, or could come out of nowhere.

“I have a lot of experience with people struggling with suicidal thoughts. Most of these people want to find a way to live; however, the devastation of depression is so painful that they often succumb to the idea that death is the only escape and they attempt suicide. If they survive, they often find themselves in a hospital where their depression can start to be treated by professionals. With help, a person with depression can find the strength to enter therapy or join a support group where they can learn many skills to help them recover,” Jolly said.

Many people, however, don’t receive the help they need. Jolly said he actually doesn’t have a lot of experience with people who committed suicide.

“Unfortunately, many people who commit suicide never seek treatment prior to their death,” he said.

Why depression goes untreated

It is estimated about 15 million people in the U.S. will have thoughts of suicide this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, since 1999 suicide among middle aged men has risen dramatically — by 27 percent. And while the reasons for this are not clear, Jolly says men are less likely to seek help for depression.

There are many reasons people don’t receive treatment, he said, including financial reasons.

“The insurance industry and Medicaid need to cover the costs of screening for depression and suicide,” he said. “Treatment can make the difference between life and death for those suffering.”

In addition, many people who have friends or family with depression do not know the signs or what to do. It can be tempting to think a person will “snap out of it,” or that the depression is “just a phase.”

However, with clinical depression this is not a solution. Knowing the signs of depression, particularly suicidal tendencies, and taking them seriously can save a life.

According to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, common warning signs of suicide are:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

Help, and hope, are available

Depression can be treated and suicide can be prevented.

“I want people to know there is hope for recovery from depression,” Jolly said. “Medications have become more powerful and less expensive, and a combined plan of therapy and medication result in the best recoveries.”

Jolly also said there is help for anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide. One free resource for those suffering, or those who suspect someone is thinking of suicide, is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). People who call the hotline will talk to a professional who is trained in suicide intervention skills. They can keep a person who is at risk safe until long term treatment is arranged.

For more information about depression, suicide and treatment options, contact Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois, where compassionate professionals like Jolly can provide help. Among the many tools MHCCI provides is an anonymous free online screening tool that assesses your mood and the need for additional resources.