Category Archives: Depression

How to Cope When a Loved One Commits Suicide

It’s never an easy thing to lose a loved one. When someone takes their own life, however, it can present its own set of challenges. Here, we’ll discuss how to cope with this particularly difficult type of loss.

Clearing Up Some Myths About Suicide

Suicide is very commonly misunderstood. As a result, it has a large stigma that not only hinders the grieving process, but can keep people from seeking the help they need in the first place. Here are some facts you may or may not have known about suicide:

  • Mental illness can (but doesn’t always) increase suicide risk: Often times, we try to interpret suicide as a symptom of depression. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention explains that this is sometimes the case. However, it is equally true that intense stress, traumatic events, substance abuse, or serious and chronic pain can lead someone to take their own life.
  • Anyone can be a victim of suicide: While the AFSP says that white males in particular are at a higher risk of suicide statistically, there 40,600 lives lost to suicide in 2012, which included men and women of all ethnicities and age ranges. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Suicide doesn’t peak during the holidays. Contrary to popular belief, the holiday season is not an outstanding cause of suicide, which may be a bit of a comfort as the holidays approach. According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is actually at its lowest rate in December. Suicide rates actually tend to spike during the Spring and Fall.

Suicide Loss Differs From Other Types of Death

It’s important to know that the grieving process for a loved one who takes their own life can be dramatically different from most other types of death. While we understand how heart disease, old age, or car accidents work, the path to suicide happens largely internally. In fact, suicide can often occur without any warning signs at all. This isn’t always the case, but it can happen.

Naturally, coping with the loss of someone close to you in this way can be hard in its own special way. Keep in mind as you process these feelings:

  • It’s okay to wonder why: Many suicide victims do not leave a note. Even if they do, you can still struggle with what drove them to the point that they felt this was necessary. Unfortunately, you can’t always get answers, but it’s alright to ask.
  • It’s alright to be angry: When a drunk driver causes an accident that takes a loved one’s life, you know who to be angry at. When someone commits suicide, though, the person who did it and the victim are the same. Thoughts like “How could he do that to us?” or “Didn’t she care about us?” are extremely common and also perfectly natural.
  • Blaming yourself is natural (but it’s not your fault): When something tragic happens, we want to believe we could’ve prevented it. This instinct doesn’t pair well with the first bullet on this list. It’s easy to imagine a “what if” scenarios. The problem is that this often only makes us feel worse. While feelings of guilt are totally normal, be aware that ultimately, the choice was theirs and try not to be so hard on yourself.

All of these reactions are perfectly normal and expected. It’s important to keep in mind that you may experience any or all of these emotions while coping with the grief. While it won’t make the feelings go away, knowing they’re natural can help ease the transition.

Help Yourself Grieve with These Coping Strategies

It’s important to know that the grieving process for a loved one who takes their own life can be dramatically different from most other types of death. While we understand how heart disease, old age, or car accidents work, the path to suicide happens largely internally. In fact, suicide can often occur without any warning signs at all. This isn’t always the case, but it can happen.

Naturally, coping with the loss of someone close to you in this way can be hard in its own special way. Keep in mind as you process these feelings:

  • It’s okay to wonder why: Many suicide victims do not leave a note. Even if they do, you can still struggle with what drove them to the point that they felt this was necessary. Unfortunately, you can’t always get answers, but it’s alright to ask.
  • It’s alright to be angry: When a drunk driver causes an accident that takes a loved one’s life, you know who to be angry at. When someone commits suicide, though, the person who did it and the victim are the same. Thoughts like “How could he do that to us?” or “Didn’t she care about us?” are extremely common and also perfectly natural.
  • Blaming yourself is natural (but it’s not your fault): When something tragic happens, we want to believe we could’ve prevented it. This instinct doesn’t pair well with the first bullet on this list. It’s easy to imagine a “what if” scenarios. The problem is that this often only makes us feel worse. While feelings of guilt are totally normal, be aware that ultimately, the choice was theirs and try not to be so hard on yourself.

All of these reactions are perfectly normal and expected. It’s important to keep in mind that you may experience any or all of these emotions while coping with the grief. While it won’t make the feelings go away, knowing they’re natural can help ease the transition.

Help Yourself Grieve with These Coping Strategies

It’s important to know that the grieving process for a loved one who takes their own life can be dramatically different from most other types of death. While we understand how heart disease, old age, or car accidents work, the path to suicide happens largely internally. In fact, suicide can often occur without any warning signs at all. This isn’t always the case, but it can happen.

Naturally, coping with the loss of someone close to you in this way can be hard in its own special way. Keep in mind as you process these feelings:

  • It’s okay to wonder why: Many suicide victims do not leave a note. Even if they do, you can still struggle with what drove them to the point that they felt this was necessary. Unfortunately, you can’t always get answers, but it’s alright to ask.
  • It’s alright to be angry: When a drunk driver causes an accident that takes a loved one’s life, you know who to be angry at. When someone commits suicide, though, the person who did it and the victim are the same. Thoughts like “How could he do that to us?” or “Didn’t she care about us?” are extremely common and also perfectly natural.
  • Blaming yourself is natural (but it’s not your fault): When something tragic happens, we want to believe we could’ve prevented it. This instinct doesn’t pair well with the first bullet on this list. It’s easy to imagine a “what if” scenarios. The problem is that this often only makes us feel worse. While feelings of guilt are totally normal, be aware that ultimately, the choice was theirs and try not to be so hard on yourself.

All of these reactions are perfectly normal and expected. It’s important to keep in mind that you may experience any or all of these emotions while coping with the grief. While it won’t make the feelings go away, knowing they’re natural can help ease the transition.

Help Yourself Grieve with These Coping Strategies

Dealing with the loss when a loved one commits suicide isn’t a process that’s done in a day. In fact, it can go on for a long, long time. If you need more guidance or just an ear to listen to, here are some resources you can check out for more help:

  • The Mayo Clinic offers several articles guides with additional suggestions on how to cope here. Topics go beyond just the scope of suicide, but many resources relating to grief are applicable as well.
  • The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers guidance on understanding suicide, how to cope, and where you can find support groups in your area or online. You can also read stories from others who have suffered similar losses.
  • If you’re an educator or professional who is looking to help those in your organization learn about and deal with suicide loss, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center has a variety of kits and resources to help you support those under your care.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you’re considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255 in the US) or speak to someone you know. There are always alternatives and, despite how you may feel, it is possible to get the help you need. Speaking personally as someone who has considered and attempted suicide in the past, the darkest moments do not have to be the end. Please reach out.

Photos by Cathy Baird, Antoine K, Sander van der Wel.

How the brain manages stress suggests new model of depression

From Medical News Today

Discovery of new molecular and behavioral connections may provide a foundation for the development of new treatments to combat some forms of depression

The brain’s ability to effectively deal with stress or to lack that ability and be more susceptible to depression, depends on a single protein type in each person’s brain, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published n the journal Nature.

The Mount Sinai study findings challenge the current thinking about depression and the drugs currently used to treat the disorder.

“Our findings are distinct from serotonin and other neurotransmitters previously implicated in depression or resilience against it,” says the study’s lead investigator, Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, Nash Family Professor, Chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Director of the Friedman Brain Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “These data provide a new pathway to find novel and potentially more effective antidepressants.”

The protein involved in this new model of depression is beta-catenin (B-catenin), which is expressed throughout the brain and is known to have many biological roles. Using mouse models exposed to chronic social stress, Mount Sinai investigators discovered that it is the activity of the protein in the D2 neurons, a specific set of nerve cells (neurons) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), the brain’s reward and motivation center, which drives resiliency.

Specifically, the research team found that animals whose brains activated B-catenin were protected against stress, while those with inactive B-catenin developed signs of depression in their behavior. The study also showed suppression of this protein in brain tissue of depressed patients examined post mortem.

“Our human data are notable in that we show decreased activation of B-catenin in depressed humans, regardless of whether these individuals were on or off antidepressants at the time of death,” says the study’s co-lead investigator, Caroline Dias, an MD-PhD student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “This implies that the antidepressants were not adequately targeting this brain system.”

In the study, researchers blocked B-catenin in the D2 brain cells in mice that had previously shown resilience to depression and found the animals became susceptible to stress. Conversely, activating B-catenin in stress mice bolstered their resilience to stress.

Nearly all nerve cells in the NAc brain region are called medium spiny neurons. These cells are divided into two types based on how they detect the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is important in regulating reward and motivation. One type of neuron detects dopamine with D1 receptors and the other with D2 receptors. The Mount Sinai data specifically implicate the D2 neurons in mediating deficits in reward and motivation that contribute to depression or enhancements that mediate resilience.

Examining the genes regulated by B-catenin, the team then traced the pathway that was engaged when B-catenin was activated in the D2 neurons and discovered a novel connection between the protein and Dicer1, an enzyme important in making microRNAs, small molecules which control gene expression.

“While we have identified some of the genes that are targeted, future studies will be key to see how these genes affect depression. Presumably, they are important in mediating the pro-resilient effects of the B-catenin-Dicer cascade,” says Dr. Dias.

While the molecular underpinnings of depression have remained elusive despite decades of research, the new Mount Sinai study breaks new ground in understanding depression in three important ways. It is the first report that B-catenin is deficient in nucleus accumbens in human depression and mouse depression models; it is the first study to show that higher activity of B-catenin drives resilience and the first report demonstrating a strong connection between B-catenin and control of microRNA synthesis.

The findings also suggest that future therapy for depression could be aimed at bolstering resilience against stress.

“While most prior efforts in antidepressant drug discovery have focused on ways to undo the bad effects of stress, our findings provide a pathway to generate novel antidepressants that instead activate mechanisms of natural resilience,” says Dr. Nestler.

Adapted by MNT from original media release

 

The Psychological Comforts of Storytelling

The Atlantic:

When an English archaeologist named George Smith was 31 years old, he became enchanted with an ancient tablet in the British Museum. Years earlier, in 1845, when Smith was only a five-year-old boy, Austen Henry Layard, Henry Rawlinson, and Hormuzd Rassam began excavations across what is now Syria and Iraq. In the subsequent years they discovered thousands of stone fragments, which they later discovered made up 12 ancient tablets. But even after the tablet fragments had been pieced together, little had been translated. The 3,000-year-old tablets remained nearly as mysterious as when they had been buried in the ruins of Mesopotamian palaces.

An alphabet, not a language, cuneiform is incredibly difficult to translate, especially when it is on tablets that have been hidden in Middle Eastern sands for three millennia. The script is shaped triangularly (cuneus means “wedge” in Latin) and the alphabet consists of more than 100 letters. It is used to write in Sumerian, Akkadian, Urartian, or Hittite, depending on where, when, and by whom it was written. It is also an alphabet void of vowels, punctuation, and spaces between words.

Even so, Smith decided he would be the man to crack the code. Propelled by his interests in Assyriology and biblical archaeology, Smith, who was employed as a classifier by the British Museum, taught himself Sumerian and literary Akkadian.

Read the whole story: The Atlantic

Study investigates why sadness is the longest-lasting emotion

From Medical News Today
We have all been there at some point in our lives: that emotional span of time after a difficult breakup, the death of a loved one or an injury, when it seems like climbing out of the pit of despair is an insurmountable task. But why does sadness last longer than feelings of being ashamed, surprised, irritated or bored? A new study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion examines this question.
Sad looking girl
“Emotions associated with high levels of rumination will last longest,” says Philippe Verduyn.

The researchers, led by Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen of the University of Leuven in Belgium, say differences in emotion duration have only been assessed for a small number of emotions, and any differences observed have not been clearly explained.

As such, the team wanted to look into this topic with more detail in order to account for differences in how long certain emotions last. They had 233 high school students recall recent emotional experiences and report their duration.

In addition, the students answered questions about strategies they used to judge and handle these emotions.

Out of 27 emotions in total, the researchers found that sadness was the longest-lasting emotion; shame, surprise, fear, disgust, boredom, being touched, irritation and relief, however, were the shortest-lasting emotions.

To Read Full article

Childhood psychological abuse as harmful as sexual or physical abuse

From Medical News Today 10/10/2014

Children who are emotionally abused and neglected face similar and sometimes worse mental health problems as children who are physically or sexually abused, yet psychological abuse is rarely addressed in prevention programs or in treating victims, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

“Given the prevalence of childhood psychological abuse and the severity of harm to young victims, it should be at the forefront of mental health and social service training,” said study lead author Joseph Spinazzola, PhD, of The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, Brookline, Massachusetts. The article appears in a special online issue of the APA journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

Researchers used the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Core Data Set to analyze data from 5,616 youths with lifetime histories of one or more of three types of abuse: psychological maltreatment (emotional abuse or emotional neglect), physical abuse and sexual abuse. The majority (62 percent) had a history of psychological maltreatment, and nearly a quarter (24 percent) of all the cases were exclusively psychological maltreatment, which the study defined as care-giver inflicted bullying, terrorizing, coercive control, severe insults, debasement, threats, overwhelming demands, shunning and/or isolation.

Children who had been psychologically abused suffered from anxiety,depression low self-esteem, symptoms of post-traumatic and suicidality at the same rate and, in some cases, at a greater rate than children who were physically or sexually abused. Among the three types of abuse, psychological maltreatment was most strongly associated with depression, general anxiety disorder,social anxiety disorder>, attachment problems and substance abuse. Psychological maltreatment that occurred alongside physical or sexual abuse was associated with significantly more severe and far-ranging negative outcomes than when children were sexually and physically abused and not psychologically abused, the study found. Moreover, sexual and physical abuse had to occur at the same time to have the same effect as psychological abuse alone on behavioral issues at school, attachment problems and self-injurious behaviors, the research found.

“Child protective service case workers may have a harder time recognizing and substantiating emotional neglect and abuse because there are no physical wounds,” said Spinazzola. “Also, psychological abuse isn’t considered a serious social taboo like physical and sexual child abuse. We need public awareness initiatives to help people understand just how harmful psychological maltreatment is for children and adolescents.”

Nearly 3 million U.S. children experience some form of maltreatment annually, predominantly by a parent, family member or other adult caregiver, according to the U.S. Children’s Bureau. The American Academy of Pediatrics in 2012 identified psychological maltreatment as “the most challenging and prevalent form of child abuse and neglect.”

For the current study, the sample was 42 percent boys and was 38 percent white; 21 percent African-American; 30 percent Hispanic; 7 percent other; and 4 percent unknown. The data were collected between 2004 and 2010 with the average age of the children at the beginning of the collection between 10 and 12 years. Clinicians interviewed the children, who also answered questionnaires to determine behavioral health symptoms and the traumatic events they had experienced. In addition, caregivers responded to a questionnaire with 113 items pertaining to the child’s behavior. Various sources, including clinicians’ reports, provided each child’s trauma history involving psychological maltreatment, physical abuse or sexual abuse.

Finding Your Cure for Depression

What if I told you that 350 million people worldwide were afflicted with an illness that can significantly compromise their quality of life? What if this disease could leave them tired, drained, achy, irritable, apathetic, restless, hopeless and  even at risk of losing their life?  What if it made people feel like they had no purpose, undermined their goals and diminished their motivation? What if the people suffering were parents, grandparents, spouses, partners, teens or, more and more often, children? The reality is that this epidemic exists in the form of depression.

Your cure