"1-4 individuals will experience a mental health condition at one point in their life"
Mental health makes up an indivisible part of our overall health and well-being. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives. This statistic also shows that suicide is one of the three leading causes of death in people aged 15 to 44. Also, research shows that around 30,000 people in the United States die by suicide each year.
While women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men, men are four times more likely to commit suicide.
Correspondingly, men are often reluctant to seek support from family and friends. Rather, most men engage in unhealthy and self-harming behaviors such as substance and alcohol abuse and/or violence. So, men with mental health illnesses often remain unknown, undiagnosed, and untreated.
Men with depression are among the highest risk groups for suicide, regardless of age. Some surveys suggest that men are less likely to seek professional mental help for their emotional and mental health issues due to stigma related to mental illness and powerful masculinity norms that expect males to behave manly and keep their feelings in check.
It is widely accepted among mental health experts that a lack of understanding compounded with mental health stigma hinder necessary actions in suicide prevention.
Suicide and Depression
Although not every depressive person is suicidal, most people who commit suicide are struggling with depression. According to Paula Clayton, MD, medical director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in New York City, around sixty percent of people who commit suicide have major depression while ninety percent struggle with some other kind of mental challenge.
Apart from a major depressive disorder, other most-common risk factors for suicide include:
- A personal history of past suicide attempts
- Presence of another untreated mental illness. This may involve bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety, and substance and alcohol abuse
- Chronic physical illness
- A family history of mental illness or suicide attempts
- Substance and/or alcohol abuse
- A history of violence and/or child abuse in the family
- Social withdrawal, feelings of loneliness and isolation
Also, a recent major life change that escalates feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, such as loss of a close person, relationship, or a job, may trigger suicidal thoughts and/or attempts in some people.
Research shows that one aspect of depression may particularly be linked to suicide. Namely, a feeling of hopelessness is found to be a stronger indicator of suicidal intention than depression itself. As a cognitive component of depression, hopelessness involves negative expectations of the future. These negative views of one’s future show a strong correlation with suicide.
Research shows that depression is not significantly related to suicidal intention when a person can control feelings of hopelessness. These findings are important because they allow mental health professionals to plan therapeutic approaches in preventing suicide that are focused on relieving hopelessness.
Understanding and Preventing Suicide: How to Support a Loved One with Suicide Intention
Most people with suicidal ideation just desperately want to end the pain and suffering. So, your loved one with suicidal intentions may give you some kind of sign or warning. Sometimes, these signs may be indirect or masked with other behaviors (such as self-harm or substance abuse), so the signs can easily be ignored or overlooked.
Some of the most common warning signs of suicide are feelings of hopelessness, preoccupation with death, and talking about death. However, a sudden sense of calm and peacefulness after being intensely depressed can also be a sign that the person is attempting suicide. The best way to prevent suicide is to recognize these signals and respond to them on time.
It is also essential to recognize the imminent suicide attempt and react instantly, either by calling 911, a suicide-prevention center, or taking the person to ER, not leaving the person alone for the moment.
Actively and empathetically listen to the person and let her/him know that they are not alone. Be compassionate and show your loved one that their mental health struggle doesn’t make them a less valuable person.
Also, it is very important to get professional help and encourage the person to see their health care provider and seek mental health support. Create a strong network of support for helping the loved one manage their mental illness. This network may include other family members, friends, physicians, coworkers, community members, etc.
Fight Mental Health Stigma: Talk about Mental Health
The stigma linked with mental illness and suicide is a great challenge in our society today. As a society, we tend to label people with mental illness in relation to negative stereotypes that cause prejudices and often lead to discrimination.
We sometimes struggle to talk about mental illness openly even within our families, friends’ circles, and communities. Removing the stigma from mental illness is key in encouraging people to talk about their mental health issues and look for professional mental health support. We need to spread awareness that no one is immune to mental health challenges. Only this kind of awareness can help raise attention to problems related to mental health, stigma, and suicide.
Mental health is not only important for the individual well-being but it is also essential for the healthy development of our society and the whole of humanity. Preventing mental illness is crucial in academic success and reducing poverty. According to the World Health Organization, 4 out of 10 leading causes of disability globally are mental health challenges, which make for around 30 percent of total disability.
Therefore, it is very important to remove the stigma from mental illness, encourage people to talk about their mental health problems, and prevent suicide. It is also essential to show support and understanding and encourage your loved one with mental health illness and/or suicidal thoughts and/or attempts to seek professional help.
If you or someone you love needs support contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1(800) 273-8255.
Luis is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who graduated from Long Beach State University with a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology (2015). He also has a Bachelors's degree in Child and Adolescent Development with an emphasis on Public Policy from San Francisco State University (2011). Luis has over 9 years of experience working with children and families both in education and mental health. Previously, Luis worked for a non-profit agency in San Francisco, CA providing mental health consultation in early head start programs and SFUSD pre-schools. Currently, Luis works at Kaiser in San Francisco providing mental health services.
His therapeutic interests include working with Trauma, the LGBTQ community, Children, Families, Couples, and POC. His personal interests include; Films, Reading, Writing, Art, Travelling, Disney, and Food. He is also a recipient of the California State Stipend award (2015). PsychoSocial is part of Luis' dedication to mental health and an example of his passion to educate others. Luis hopes that through PsychoSocial he will be able to help in the fight to end the stigma around mental illness.