Depression. The silent Killer.
by Tony Jarrah
As the year slowly comes close the end of 2015 we hear a lot about mental health. There seems to be a global epidemic of people suffering from mental health issues and many are unfortunately committing suicide. In Australia close to 1900 men are committing suicide every year and over six hundred women are also committing suicide every year.
Four hundred thousand people in this country contemplate thoughts of suicide. 65,000 people make an attempt at suicide, and 35,000 people are admitted to hospital for suicide related injuries every year in Australia.
The sad and unfortunate reality is that 2,500 are successful in their suicide attempt every year.
That is, 48 people every week die from mental health issues.
It’s saddening to think about these numbers when you consider that you can fit 2,500 people in 58 buses seating 43 people each. That is how many Australians commit suicide each year. 58 BUS LOADS.
Though the statistics tell us that 400,000 people experience suicidal thoughts every year, many, many more suffer from depression, some debilitating levels of depression, but don’t actually think about committing suicide. According to statistics obtained by BeyondBlue, around one million Australian adults suffer from depression any given year. That we know of. And around 2 million adults suffer from anxiety. That we know of.
Around seven people die every day from suicide. Depression is the leading cause of deaths in this country for people aged between 15 and 44. These are 2,500 families that will be affected, countless friends and colleagues will also feel the loss of someone.
Around 1 in 6 people will experience some form of depression or another in their life. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men. That we know of. The unfortunate thing is that some people never tell anyone, they don’t seek medical help or any other kind of help. These people will suffer in silence for months, years or decades.
I recently read an article that spoke of 200 suicide cases a year in the construction industry alone for young men aged between 19 and 25. These numbers are completely unacceptable but fortunately there are a lot of new, and already existing, initiatives that are aimed at suicide prevention right across the country.
I have personally suffered from depression most of my life, including most of my childhood and all of my adolescence. I even attempted to take my own life in my mid 20s. Fortunately for me I was unsuccessful in my attempt.
These photos are of me, taken in February and August of 2006 at the age of 42. The photo on the left was taken at the peak of my last bout with depression. During this time my depression had taken such a hold of me that my body had started to shut down. All the signs were there.
It wasn’t until the day that I saw the photo on the left that it hit me. I hadn’t realised how sick I was and how much of a hold depression had on me until that point. To pose for that photo I had to fake that smile. Anyone that has ever suffered from depression will tell you how draining it is to wear that mask. It was physically painful for me to walk to that room and stand there for the photo. It was my daughter’s birthday so I had to make the sacrifice, but it hurt to do so.
Not long after this photo was taken I realised that I had allowed so many events through my life to control me. I had allowed my then wife to contribute greatly to my getting to this state. At this point I realised that if I didn’t make some changes I was going to die, no need for suicide, I was already shutting down. It occurred to me that if I was to die, “they” would win and upon coming to this realisation a dog stubbornness in me was ignited.
Within a few days of seeing this photo I bought a bicycle and started riding it. It was extremely painful at first and I didn’t even make it half a block from home before I had to turn back. But I persevered until I got to the point, on the photo on the right, where I was riding that beast for around two and a half hours at a time, at three quarter to full pace, four times a week.
Since then I have never looked back. I made a lot of changes in the years to follow, most of which were changes within myself. I changed my outlook on life, and my attitudes about everything. I stopped allowing others to control my life, and even my thoughts, or my actions. I realised that life is very short and fragile and it can go at any moment so I became determined to find out what it’s like to feel happiness. I had never felt happiness in my life, perhaps I still haven’t, but nowadays I no longer feel the pain or the depression.
Unfortunately depression is like having a rabid monkey on your back, you can learn how to control it but I feel that it will always be there, waiting for you to fall off the wagon. So far, it’s been eight years since I kicked depression in the arse and it hasn’t come back, even though I have had some hard experiences to deal with, including being homeless a few times. I am happy to say that I beat depression and she ain’t coming back. I changed the locks.
REASONS FOR DEPRESSION
Though it isn’t known exactly what causes depression, we do know that there are contributing factors that will help bring it on. It can be a current event combined with a series of other recent events, as well as other life long events and personal factors and predispositions.
Living in an abusive or uncaring relationship, continuing difficulties like long-term unemployment, loneliness, or prolonged exposure to stress at work or long-term isolation are all factors that are more likely to cause depression. Much more than any one single effect, though, that can also occur. Losing your job, together with being in a bad personal relationship, combined, can also cause, or trigger, depression in people that are already predispositioned because of many other contributing factors over a long period of time.
Some of the personal factors that might contribute to depression could be things such as a genetic predisposition. This, however, doesn’t mean that because the parent was depressed, then the child will also be depressed. There must be other contributing factors involved for the mix to take effect.
People that have low self esteem, or are very self critical and are also sensitive to personal criticism from others can also suffer from depression. Other factors might be that the individual is going through a particular hard time, such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or they might be experiencing a bad illness. Drug and alcohol use can either bring on depression or be the result of depression, as it’s the case for over 500,000 Australians at any given time.
The final thing I am going to discuss in relation to reasons for depression is the brain. There are many chemicals floating around in our brains and sometimes those chemicals are out of balance. At times there might be too much of one chemical or not enough of another chemical present in our brain. This can be a major contributor to depression even in the absence of external factors.
What Are Symptoms of Depression?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Are There Warning Signs of Suicide With Depression?
Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately.
Warning signs of suicide with depression include:
- A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
- Always talking or thinking about death
- Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
- Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving through red lights
- Losing interest in things one used to care about
- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
- Saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”
- Talking about suicide (killing one’s self)
- Visiting or calling people one cares about
Again, anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously.
Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. In Australia you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
All rights reserved. © 2015 Tony Jarrah