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Depression is one of the most common emotional disorders. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, September 2022, Trends in U.S. Depression Prevalence from 2015 to 2022, “From 2015 to 2019, there were widespread increases in depression without commensurate increases in treatment, and in 2020, past 12‒month depression was prevalent among nearly 1 in 10 Americans and almost 1 in 5 adolescents and young adults.” The study then goes on to urge a multi-pronged approach to addressing this health crisis in the United States.

What causes depression?

It used to be thought that depression was only caused by traumatic life events, like the death of a spouse, a child, or a divorce, or that a person was born prone to melancholia. While traumatic life events and genetics are associated with depression, research is showing that depression is a much more complex condition. Many factors are known to be associated with depression, including: genetics, brain chemistry, life experiences, health, pain levels, trauma history, improper mood regulation by the brain, etc. Neurotransmitters, the chemicals that the brain uses to communicate between cells and nerves, are now known to play a role in mood regulation, but researchers have not unlocked the exact code yet. Serotonin, a powerful neurotransmitter, was once thought to be the magic bullet in the cure for depression, but the latest research is showing that relationship is more complicated as well.

Depression and/or anxiety is often seen in patients who live with chronic pain.

Man on couch suffering from depressionCharacteristics of depression include:

  • Lack of interest in activities or hobbies previously enjoyed
  • Lack of energy – mental and physical
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Sadness may/may not be present
  • Thoughts of suicide

Treatment for Depression

Current scientific research supports using psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both, along with good nutrition, exercise and adequate, quality sleep.

Severe Depression and Thoughts of Suicide

Treatment is available, and it works! Get help and start to feel better. CALL or TEXT 988 to speak anonymously with a behavioral health professional NOW.

Suicide thoughts are commonly associated with chronic emotional and physical pain, but most suicide thoughts are low-risk and do not lead to death. Death by suicide is extremely rare, because most people with suicide thoughts don’t want to die – they just want the emotional pain to stop. If you find yourself thinking about how to die, having some intention to act on your thoughts, starting to plan out details (where, when, how), or preparing, this represents higher risk, and should be treated immediately. Immediate help is available through emergency and urgent care centers, and the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (988).

Most suicide thoughts are easily treatable within the first few sessions of psychotherapy. Treatment begins with a safety plan, which is a plan you and your therapist create together, with practical and immediate steps you can take on your own to feel better and not act on your thoughts. Next, you learn special ways to manage life stressors, so the emotional pain does not keep building up and becoming overwhelming.

Finally, you can dramatically reduce the risk of suicide for yourself or someone else by removing firearms from the home – not just separating ammunition and firearms or locking them up – but completely removing them from the home.

Dr. Andrew Martin, PsyD, is an expert in suicide risk assessment, prevention, and treatment, and has educated providers across the US in suicide-focused behavioral health interventions and prevention.

SUICIDE HOTLINE – Dial 988 – communicate with a mental health professional NOW, by voice or text.

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