by Mazie Leftwich, PsyD, LCSW Emeritus

Emotions and even physical pain can become unbearable to a depressed individual. it is estimated that about 60 percent of people who commit suicide have had a mood disorder (e.g., major depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymia). An often, an individual who kills themselves via suicide, also suffer from a substance abuse disorder, in addition to being depressed. This is especially true for adolescents who can easily get alcohol or street drugs or have access to their family’s prescription medications.

And this is the tricky part, the extremely sad and frightening reality: way too often individuals with depression and suicidal thoughts are very good at hiding their misery, hiding their suffering.

Individuals living with depression often experience very different thoughts before and after a depressive episode. Too often it is a chemical imbalance in the brain that can lead to the person not understanding that there are options available to help them relieve their suffering. Many people who suffer from depression report feeling as though they’ve lost the ability to imagine a happy future, or remember a happy past.

And amazingly, it is not unusual for depressed individuals to not realize they’re suffering from a treatable illness; and seeking help may not even enter their mind. Generally, people don’t really want to die, but it’s the only way they feel their pain will end. Emotions and even physical pain become unbearable. Suicide becomes to these individuals a truly rational choice.

It is extremely important that family, friends, coworkers not just be observant when an individual starts acting differently, but talk to the individual. Listen, ask questions and talk more. Don’t give up, don’t back off. And be sure you learn what is available to help the individual so you can give them a number to call, a text number.

Suffering from depression is involuntary, just like cancer or diabetes, but it is a treatable illness that can be managed.