Depression and Suicide

On This Page

Why Talk About This?

First of all, depression, suicide, and generally unfulfilling lives are relevant. Modern society and material affluence has brought us many benefits, but as the below article clearly illustrates, it hasn’t necessarily answered our needs for Meaning, brought by love, service, expression, and discovery.
As Joy becomes a focus that is equally necessary as it is optimal, tools like this site provide a preventative measure against suffering. Even for those already dealing with heavy grief, we believe this site offers an antidote for hardship and hopelessness.

Our prescription for depression is to live a life of meaning; to understand the nature of happiness and to make choices accordingly.

And this page in particular serves to identify a problem head-on: depression and suicide as an opposite, undesirable outcome of life without a sense of meaning and purpose. There can be deep, primary, biological predispositions involved in undesirable mental health; this site/practices can be an aide in such treatment, yet professional help is necessary for treatment in such cases. Depression is real, many face it, and it can be overcome. Within this site you will find many tools, usually only involving a little bit of reading and practice, to live intentionally and fruitfully.

Seeking professional help is STRONGLY encouraged, and while self-help and this website can be helpful, even instrumental, they are not intended to be a substitute for professional help.

This site promotes a healthy, integrated approach to connecting the reality of death and grief with the wonders of life. This site is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, treatment, medical treatment, psychotherapy, counseling, or mental health services. This site does not encourage self-harm, suicide, or suicide ideation. If you or someone you know is in crisis or having suicidal or self-harming thoughts,  please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. It really does not hurt to call, even if you aren’t sure. Talking about issues you face with people who want to help IS VALUABLE. There is someone out there who wants to help, even if you feel very alone.

The following is a short opinion article from The Week, published in December 2018:

Life Expectancy: A Nation Afflicted by despair.

America remains a rich and powerful nation, but millions of our citizens are ‘wracked with grief and despair,’ said David French in NationReview.com. Stark evidence of that paradox was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest annual report on American life expectancy, which showed our average span either falling or stagnating for the third consecutive year. The last time we saw a downward trend in life expectancy, America was fighting World War I and suffering through a flue pandemic that killed 675,000. Now drugs and suicide are mostly to blame. The overdose rate is up 356 percent since 1999, and the 2017 death toll–70,237–‘far outstrips the total American fatalities in Vietnam.’ For a large swath of our population, the family structure has broken down, amid rampant divorce, children being raised out of wedlock, and young men unable to find jobs that support a family. ‘We’re facing not so much a drug problem as a heartbreak problem,’ said Mona Charen, also in NationalReview.com. With families and social bonds crumbling, an AARP study found one-third of Americans reported chronic loneliness. Isolation is a state ‘about as deadly as smoking.’

The life-expectancy decline is far worse in rural America, said Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post. There–where unemployment and poverty rates are higher–the suicide rate is almost twice that of urban counties. President Trump ‘owes his presidency to rural Americans,’ but other than offering them cultural resentment and scapegoats, he’s done nothing for them. In fact, he’s further hurt them with a devastating trade war that shut Chinese markets to U.S. farm products and cost farmers billions.

Our country’s problems go deeper than economics, said David Brooks in The New York Times. We’ve had 10 years of economic expansion, and the GDP is currently growing at a robust 3.5 percent a year. Yet many employers can’t find workers with necessary skills, and jobs that provide dignity and middle-class wages are dwindling. Millions of people suffer “a crisis of connection.” in many rural and working-class communities, people are no longer involved in churches and community organizations; they’re less likely to know their neighbors and less likely to get married. ‘It’s not jobs, job, jobs’ or better welfare programs that will save us from this ongoing ‘social catastrophe.’ It’s human relationships, and a society that cares about people more than money.

Depression

Depression is not simply chronic sadness. People experiencing depression can have a range of symptoms:

  • difficulty focusing
  • lack of interest in things
  • excessive sleeping
  • fatigue
  • lowered appetite
  • weight loss or gain
  • feelings of shame or guilt
  • thoughts of suicide

And depression, even though it is widespread in the modern U.S. (over 15 million people per year[1]) is far from normal/acceptable/understood in the public. People facing depression can even get caught in a vicious cycle: “I know I’m depressed. People won’t / don’t like that, so I’ll continue isolating myself and harboring feelings of worthlessness.” Yikes!

What Causes Depression?

Like anything involving our mental disposition, depression is complex. There is no single cause of it. For most people experiencing it, there is a combination of factors. These can be environmental, genetic, psychological, biochemical. Just about any stressful situation can cause it: loss, existential crisis, difficult relationships…even one’s diet.

A Caveat

Some people are simply wired for depression.[2] There are genetic and biochemical processes that may not require any or strong environmental factors. Offering that there is a magic pill or treatment that can cure all forms of depression is inaccurate and unhelpful. While most cases are highly treatable, any cure or treatment or advice is with enormous amounts of salt and humility and awe.  Sometimes, the genetic/biochemical forces are stronger than opposing ones.

There is some amount of hope for every case, and some people’s depression, because of their predisposition, is easier or more difficult to address. Even the most severe cases are highly treatable. Often the condition has cyclical elements, so attending to it early and prevention are most reliable.
If you or someone you know is dealing or has dealt with depression or thoughts of suicide, you are in the right place.

Strengthening your four cornerstones of meaning and purpose, strengthening enablers, and fostering healthy interactions with happiness will make it much harder to live within states of depression.

How to Treat Depression

Early treatment, as with any medical condition, is always valuable. Commonly, a combination of psychotherapy and medication are used. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to be effective [3], for example, both alone and in combination with drug therapy.

No matter what kind of therapy you seek, it’s likely to involve restructuring thought habits, which is what this website aims to do. By learning different ways of thinking and practicing/habituating them, especially changing or scaling one’s perspective around related stressors, we can stop depression and escape its vicious cycles. For example, there is growing evidence that Mindfulness meditation can be effective against depression.[4] It essentially stops it before it starts by helping us disengage from negative thought patterns.

Our Framework

Meaning is key. The information you will find throughout this site for living a more meaningful, happy life bears significant similarity and overlap with best practices in treating depression and suicide (see below links and references). Generally speaking they are to focus on meaning and purpose, and to better understand what makes us joyful, and to make choices based upon that understanding.
Following the below sections and their related pages will give you what we all deserve in an era of information and science: a curated, comprehensive, science-based, collection/presentation/model for how to live life well.

Strengthen Enablers

These are the ‘life skills’ that make us better at the human experience, such as Mindfulness, practicing Gratitude and Forgiveness, and Communicating well with others.

Invest in the Four Cornerstones

Our model (further explanation here) is actually pretty simple: Life Satisfaction, and Joy are most affected by meaning which are created through the 4 cornerstones of Love, Service, Expression, and Discovery. You can start here to learn about each cornerstone; what they are and how to grow them.

Understand Happiness

What is ‘happiness’? What are the different types? Can our colloquial use of the word be misleading? Can a form of happiness even be a hindrance?

We believe that it would be uncommon to find people suffering from the afflictions of depression and suicide when they are engaged in the four cornerstones, they activate the enablers, are aware of and skillfully engage with the hindrances, and understand and act on the nature of happiness.

Depression

American Psychological Association – This page offers some quick links on understanding and treating depression, and gives you a database for finding a psychologist.

This Way Up – clinically proven online courses for helping with depression and other mental health issues.

7 Cups – It’s the 21st century. You can connect with caring listeners online for emotional support, free.

Woebot – “An AI chatbot for mental health? No way.” Yes. WAY. There is research showing that Woebot’s algorithms help people. It’s free and can be used with facebook messenger and other apps.

Psychology Today: Basics of Depression – A bit more depth than what’s offered here on the basics of depression, including insightful stats and helpful treatment options.

Making Yourself Proud – From Brian Johnson at Optimize.me, this philosopher’s note shares a method for improving self-respect.

Helpguide: Coping with Depression – a more extensive article about methods for battling depression, including a ‘wellness toolbox’ and a short list of helpful organizations.

Detecting Depression – A challenging part of depression can be recognizing it. This article from WebMD gives some helpful tips for detecting it in yourself and others.

10 Actors Open Up about Their Battles with Depression – Depression is normal and ok. Since it’s often misunderstood, it may be helpful to see these iconic people share their battles.

Huffpost: ‘7 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was Battling Depression’ – This article is personal, insightful, and pragmatic.

Sneaky Depression Triggers as you Age: A slideshow from WebMD exposing things that can cause depression as you age.

Suicide

American Psychological Association – This page offers some quick links on understanding and treating suicide, and gives you a database for finding a psychologist.

Why Do People Kill Themselves? – An article by Scientific American about the sometimes dangerous power of the mind.

Psychology Today: Basics about Suicide – A bit more depth than what’s offered here on suicide, including insightful stats and helpful treatment options.

A Public Health Approach to Suicide – An APA article about the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Why We Kill Ourselves – Despite being a successful psychologist and writer, the author of this book struggled with suicidal inclinations for years. Breaking that cycle, he wrote this book from a point of curiosity, hoping to understand how we as people live in that mindset.

Surgeon General’s National Strategy – a quick collection of links and resources regarding suicide, as well as a video: “We all have a role to play in preventing suicide.”

How Colleges are Supporting Student Mental Health – A hopeful and pragmatic look at what colleges are doing to tackle the mental health crisis of upcoming generations.

Videos

Clinical Depression by Osmosis – An informative look at the clinical types of depression. 10.5 min

The Lesser-Known Symptoms of Depression – What it really can feel like to be in those shoes. 5.5 min
(Lots of valuable facts. Visit youtube page for sources)

We Need to Talk about Depression – An informative and detailed video from Johns Hopkins about Depression, with informative statistics and need-to-know insights. 12 min

Depression: A Student’s Perspective – Demystifying depression and sharing information for students. 6 min

‘I’m Fine’: Learning to Live with Depression – This TED talk personalizes and gives a deep look into the life of someone who is depressed. 16 min

Depression and Bipolar Disorder – Incredible as always, Crash Course gives an academic look at the psychology of Depression and Bipolar Disorder. 10 min

Snippets