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Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

Understanding Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

Depression is not just about feeling sad most of the time. It’s much more than that. Depression affects our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. 

Some of the signs that someone is experiencing depression include:

• Loss of interest in things one used to find pleasurable.

• Having low motivation can come with the shame of feeling useless and unproductive.

• Feeling guilty about not being able to do the things we should be doing.

• Feeling worthless and having a low sense of self-worth.

• Having rigid thoughts and negative beliefs about oneself, others, and the world.

• Having thoughts that tend to be irrational or exaggerated.

• The tendency to withdraw and isolate oneself.

• Having feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and anger are also typical.

• Having physical symptoms such as fatigue, poor concentration, sleep, appetite, and even sexual problems come in the mix.

Suicide is a major health problem, and one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Suicidal thoughts also called suicidal ideation can be active or passive. Active suicidal ideation is often given more focus and attention. However, there is a need to give some attention to the passive type. Passive suicidal ideation – wishing you could go to bed and not wake up, is quite common. It is often an indicator of severity of depression. Passive suicidal ideation should be taken seriously because you never know when it can develop to active suicidal ideation. There is a difference between passive suicidal ideation and intrusive thoughts of death. The latter is when the brain just brings up the idea of death randomly. Most intrusive thoughts are things we don’t want to happen while with passive suicidal ideation there is a desire to die. 

The question one may want to ask is: Is passive suicidal ideation treatable? Most of it comes from depressive episodes and since depression can be treated then passive suicidal ideation can be treated. Don’t try to do it alone, make a decision to get help!

Suicidal thoughts or ideation can be the result of several situations and circumstances including but not limited to: 

• Experiencing or anticipating prolonged psychological pain and wanting to escape.

• This could include feeling ashamed, misunderstood, rejected, unlovable, inadequate, lonely, etc and one may seek refuge in suicide to end the pain and the perception of being aburden to others. 

• Suicidal ideation can be an act of aggression such as having anger toward some people and turning the feeling inward and unleashing on themselves. 

• Feeling victimized by the world or situations and feeling powerless.

• Fantasying with the pleasure about the emotional pain their suicide can cause for people they are angry with. 

• Perceived lack of meaning and purpose in their lives.

• Inability to express oneself one’s emotions.

The link between Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

According to research, depression is strongly related to both suicidal ideation and attempt.However, a lot is yet to be known about the characteristics that increase the risk of suicide among people with depression. Depression and substance use disorders, mostly alcohol, are the most prevalent diagnoses among suicide victims [4]. Depression is not the only mental health challenge that is linked to suicide. Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) have been implicated in a range of negative health outcomes in adulthood, including mental disorders and suicide death. 

A question one may ask is, what makes depression stand out among other mental health disorders that are linked to suicide? A closer look at the symptoms of depression and the reasons for suicidal thoughts reveal a common thread related to problems with distortion in thoughts and the issue of meaning and purpose. It is also important to note that both have to do with attachment and relationships.

How to Intervene with People Having Suicidal Thoughts

• Help them explore distressing thoughts and feelings in a safe environment without judgment. 

• Acknowledge and validate the person’s first-person experience. 

• Encourage attachment relationships for support such as family and friends and challenge negative thoughts that foster interpersonal isolation.

• Encourage the person to get rid of unhelpful ways of coping with distressing emotions through drug and alcohol abuse, cutting, etc.

• Help ground the person emotionally and interpersonally.

• To intervene with suicidal ideation due to lack of meaning, focus on how the person attains meaning and significance in life.

• Support the person’s parents and loved ones to feel confident to support the thoughts and feelings of the people they care about.

• If the person is in immediate danger, encourage them to go to the hospital, call crisis or the police.

• Be aware of factors that can turn suicidal ideation into a suicidal plan. 

• Assess for imminent risk.

• Assess suicide risk and work with them on removing any means to follow through.

• Explore their protective factors with them.

• Be careful not to shame them. 

• Help them not to feel alone. They need to feel emotionally connected to another human being. Help them feel they matter to you.

• Let the conversation be open and honest.

• Be careful not to be hyper-reactive and shut down the person.

Depressed or Not: Prevention is the Focus

Suicide prevention efforts often depend on the disclosure of suicidal ideation, an early step in the suicidal process. So, walking alongside someone who is having suicidal thoughts is a great privilege and opportunity for intervention. 

At HopeNation our focus is on suicide prevention as we believe that prevention is far better than cure. We believe that making our services highly accessible to our client who do not only meet us from the comfort of their homes but have constant access to us via the secure messaging portal is top priority. We collaboratively work with our clients and their families to put a lot of safety/emergency measures in place. At HopeNation, our focus is not just the individual but also the family system which connects them meaningfully with life.

If you or your loved one is experiencing any of the signs mentioned above, please reach out to us at HopeNation Counseling.

Click here to contact HopeNation today to schedule a consultation.

Sources: 

National Library of Medicine

National Institute of Health

Written By:
Adesola "Busola" Ojo, NCC, LPC-MHSP, EMDR Certified Therapist
Casey Merrill

Casey Merrill

LPC-MHSP

Christal Pennic

Christal Pennic

LPC-MHSP