DEPRESSION. Its warning signs and dangers of suicide. By definition, depression is described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable or down in the dumps. Most of us feel that way one time or another in our lives, but when it becomes seemingly undefeatable, it is time to take a closer look. The exact cause of depression is unknown, but many researchers believe it may be genetic or triggered by stressful events. It ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness or more severe as in clinical depression. This includes depressed moods most of the day, nearly every day, loss of interest or pleasure in most activities, significant weight loss or gain, either sleeping too much or not being able to sleep, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, loss of concentration and thoughts of suicide. Many seem to jump at the chance for medication to smooth the way. Are we an overmedicated society? We are bombarded with commercial ads on television to take this or that medication to make us happy again and at the first downward slump, we surrender. Are there alternatives to these medications? Indeed there are! There are natural cures like St. John’s Wort. Medication is not a permanent solution for most people. The solution to a depression-free life is to use all the tools available. Surrounding ourselves with positive people, changing thought patterns, stopping negative thinking, reading self-help books, keeping occupied with art, music, writing or whatever is interesting to you is a good start . Statistics from experts at the John Hopkins Mood Disorder Center show more than 20 million Americans suffer from depression or bipolar disorder, which kills 30,000 people in the United States a year. In addition, The Center claims that 50% of the general public has seriously considered suicide as a solution to their problems. It is evident, according to David Mrazek, MD of the Mayo Clinic, that some of the antidepressants available do not help all the people all of the time.
Antidepressants carry a warning about the possibility of increased risk for suicidal thinking while using them. At some time in everyone’s life, there has been at least a passing thought of the suicide option. The danger occurs when a person thinks about suicide while they have depression. Often their thoughts have a hard time escaping the entrapment of a clouded brain. It can be difficult to diagnose depression. There are many different types of depression and not all people will have the same symptoms or have them to the same degree. My friend had, what was categorized by her Doctor as a “nervous breakdown” and was institutionalized and put on three different types of antidepressants. She is comatose most of the day and cannot function as a mother to her two little ones. Right now they have her on suicide watch and she has to have someone with her at all times. I talked to her at length and it is “coping” with decisions and responsibilities that have overwhelmed her.
Are antidepressants going to make her better? This is not to discredit or disregard physicians, but many doctors have not experienced depression and yet have created companies who want to sell you some kind of medication. Many or most are nothing but overpriced prescriptions that most often barely begin to alleviate the problem. It is more like a band-aid approach than getting to the source of the original problem that is making you sick. Sometimes depression does come from a chemical imbalance in the brain and medication is necessary. If you are suicidal or feel like you are beyond help, you should seek medical attention immediately. Although it is widely believed that a serotonin deficiency plays a role in depression, according to Jeanne Segal, PHD, a highly regarded sociologist and psychologist for 37 years, who works with the Help guide Organization, there is no test that can measure the amount of serotonin in the living brain. There is no way to even know what a low or normal level of serotonin is, let alone show that depression medication can fix these levels. Many researchers believe that an imbalance in serotonin levels may influence moods in a way that leads to depression. Possible problems include low brain cell production of serotonin, a lack of receptor sites able to receive the serotonin that is produced, inability of serotonin to reach the receptor sites, or a shortage in tryptophan, the chemical from which serotonin is manufactured. If any of these biochemical glitches occur, researchers believe it can lead to depression. The good news is that most people can cure depression without a drop of medication. Many types of depression can be treated by simply changing our thoughts and attitudes.
Therapy, exercise and self-help strategies can help find the underlying issues and beat depression for good, minus the side effects of antidepressants, which can cause nausea, dizziness, sweating, constipation and decreased appetite. Robert Segal, M.A. holds a Masters degree in psychology and tells us that there is a danger that, in some people, antidepressant treatment will cause an increase, rather than a decrease in depression- and with it, an increased risk of suicidal thoughts in many individuals. Another friend of mine was having a serious issue that she began discussing with me. She felt comfortable talking to me about it because we had a similar situation going on. We were both 39 years old and in the throes of divorce, bankruptcy and losing our homes to foreclosure. “How,” she said, “are you coping?” I did not have a definitive answer. All I could say is that I kept moving on so I did not have to think about it. “I just moved in with my mom, sold my jewelry to buy a car and I work seven days a week to make ends meet. “ The responsibility of taking care of my mom and my son, I guess, saved me in a way. I could not change my circumstances, but I could change my life by moving forward in a positive direction. I also said that I did my share of crying, was down at times and sought help by seeing a therapist. Talking it out helped. Writing it down helped even more. My emotions were raw and I had to let out my frustrations any way I could. A week later, I learned that my friend hanged herself. Her family never saw it coming; even though she had attempted it previously, was being counseled and was being treated with prescribed antidepressant medication.
Antidepressant medication use is soaring among women between the ages of 40 and 59 who are the most likely group to take these drugs. In this age range, 23 percent of U.S. women are taking one or more. Dr. Deligianndis, assistant professor of psychiatry and the medical director of the Depression Specialty Clinic at UMass Memorial Medical Center, tells us that, with so many effective options available for depression, doctors can help patients personalize the individual treatment program that is right for them. If only, when all else fails, would he recommend medication. Current research shows there is a definite link between depression and nutrition. Since adequate nutrition is needed for countless aspects of brain functioning, it makes sense. Poor diet quality may create a risk for depression. For instance, severe vitamin B12 deficiency is known to cause loss of memory, mental dysfunction and depression. Similarly, fatigue, confusion, dementia and irritability are common clinical signs of folic acid deficiency. While many people do not respond to antidepressants, a change in diet could be the ultimate course to take. Nutrition is particularly appealing because it often provides a substantial opportunity for improving the disposition of a patient (Kessler Institute Newsletter-2003). If nutrition can be effective in improving mental health by supplementing diets with single or multiple vitamins and minerals, then maybe, we should be looking more closely at diets before resorting to prescription drugs. Herein may lay the answers to the many questions linked to depression. It is mind, body and soul being in harmony, which achieves emotional health and well-being. There is more than one alternative in seeking emotional healing. We must first identify the kind of depression we are experiencing, seek professional help, explore medical causes behind the depression, and begin the journey toward remedies with support of family and friends. Only after using all the tools at our disposal, then and only then, should we consider the alternative of taking antidepressants. Maybe all it will take is documenting your feelings where you can let out your darkest thoughts, because you need not worry that anyone will judge you for them. A journal can become your collaborator in the struggle against your depression because it eventually provides you with great evidence of what improves your mood as well as what brings it down. Keeping a journal of your journey will be something that you can physically hold as proof of your measure of success.