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Knowing the Signs of Depression and Suicide

With the sudden and shocking passing of comedy icon Robin Williams, the link between depression and suicide has once again become a topic of national attention. Some may question why a person would choose suicide, many people fail to understand what could drive a person to take their own life. Some people find it frightening, others find it selfish on the part of the person who has completed the act. Regardless of your individual opinion, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of depression.

Depression can affect anyone, regardless of gender, race, age, socioeconomic status, level of education, cultural or ethnic identity. However, people may show symptoms of depression in a variety of ways and some people may be more likely to suffer from depression than others. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 7% of the US adult population will suffer from depression in 2014 alone. Over 3% of teenagers suffer from depression at some point. While these numbers may seem small, they are immense if they include yourself or a loved one.

Depression can be caused by a number of factors, including environmental, biological, genetic and biological causes. Brain imagining studies even show visible differences between the brain of a person who is presently depressed and one who is not. Despite this technology, the causes of depression cannot be determined solely by a medical test.

Traumatic incidents such as assault, grieving the loss of a loved one, losing a job, financial stress and unemployment can all be considered possible causes of depression. Depression can also run in families, possibly due to a genetic pre-disposition or due to a modeled response to stressful situations. Depression has also been linked to chemical imbalances in the brain. However, some incidences of depression have an unknown origin.

Drug and alcohol use can also contribute to worsening depression as part of the addiction, withdrawal and/or recovery process. Depression can also occur in conjunction with a number of medical illnesses including but not limited to heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, stroke and diabetes or as a result of a serious injury.

Symptoms of depression can also occur co-morbidly with other psychological problems such as anxiety, traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) just to name a few.

Some signs and symptoms of depression can include: persistent sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, helplessness, feelings of guilt, irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, fatigue and difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. Those with depression may also suffer from insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of appetite or overeating, difficulty with focus and attention and somatic symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches or other digestive issues.

Finally, thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts are also associated with depression.

If you, or someone you know, may be suffering from depression, it is important to talk about it. Seek out emotional support of a trusted friend, family member, neighbor, fellow student or co-worker. In this day in age, many people are readily accessible via the internet, telephone, e-mail, or text, but don't just leave it at that, see someone in person. Tell them how you are feeling. Asking for help is the first step toward recovery. Most importantly, do not wait until it becomes too much for you to handle. There is help and support out there for those who need it.

If you feel like there is no one you can turn to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit their facebook page entitled 800273TALK or website at For assistance in the Philadelphia, PA area visit: or call 1-800- SUICIDE (784-2433). Help is nearby.

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