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Professor: Suicide Not Higher During Holidays

[8 Sep 2010 | No Comments | 318 views | Author: Dee Braun, DrR, CA, CCT]
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Professor: Suicide Not Higher During HolidaysWell, this came as a surprise to me as I have always thought that the holidays brought on greater numbers of suicides due to higher levels of stress and deeper depression. But, it appears that this is a common misconception.

According to UNC School of Social Work professor Jodi Flick. Flick presented “Suicide in Adults and Children: Prevention, Intervention and Postvention,” Nov. 23 at a workshop titled “Depression and Suicide: What You Need to Know” at Catawba Valley Community College.

According to statistics, the highest rates of suicide have always been in the months of May and June, Flick said. Although, some experts put the highest months in January and April.

“Severe depression and suicide have more to do with a body’s reaction to … biorhythms than what’s going on in our lives,” Flick said. “This is a real medical problem. It isn’t something a person is doing because they feel bad.”

Depression and other illnesses

According to Flick, 90 to 95 percent of those who attempt to commit suicide have noticeable mental illnesses, such as severe depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or practice substance abuse. Other risk factors include a history of trauma, economic hardship or isolation.
Research on suicide in the United States was first conducted on concentration camp survivors after World War II. The studies revealed that it is not just stress that drives peoplProfessor: Suicide Not Higher During Holidayse to kill themselves.

“We know it’s more about brain illness than how much stress a person is under,” Flick said.

Suicide can result from a variety of biological, psychological, cultural or sociological factors, Flick said. Certain events that are believed to lead to suicide, such as losing a job or ending a relationship, are usually themselves caused by depression.

“People often get causes and consequences reversed in depression,” Flick said.

Depression is a gradual and recurring illness, she said. Untreated, it can last from five months to two years and may return at any time throughout a person’s life.

According to Flick, women are two-thirds more likely to have depression disorders than men. Although women attempt suicide more often, men are more likely to succeed.

Trumping the popular belief that teens are at the greatest risk of suicide, Flick said that suicide rates rise with age. Statistics show Caucasian men ages 60 to 70 are at the greatest risk.

Symptoms of illness

Depression is the most common form of illness for those at risk of suicide, Flick said. It is important to recognize that depression and unhappiness are not the same. Unhappiness is normal, with bad feelings created from outer situations. Depression originates from within.

Dealing with depression is difficult due to society’s improper use of the word, Flick said. The word “depression” is often used for everyday emotions, instead of the more appropriate use as a medical term, she said.

Depression has four categories of symptoms: physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral.
Physical symptoms include constant fatigue that cannot be cured by rest, slow movements and speech, and headaches or stomach pains.

Emotional symptoms include aggression or numbness, persistent boredom or apathy and low self-esteem or a feeling of guilt.

Cognitive symptoms include poor concentration, difficulty solving problems or making decisions, negative thought patterns, and feeling hopeless, helpless and self-defeating.
The most notable symptoms, behavioral, come in the form of an aggressive attitude and poor performance at school or work, isolation and differences in relationships.

Signs of suicide

A person acts on the thought of suicide within five minutes of pre-meditation, Flick said. Although suicide may seem impulsive, the downslide toward the act likely occurred over a long period of time. Seventy percent of those who attempt suicide give warnings, which may include discussing suicide or giving away valuable items.

Eighty-eight percent of suicidal persons first go to their family physician with concerns, Flick said. Some suicides could be prevented if the patients would seek help from a doctor trained to deal with suicide, she said.

Suicide in news and entertainment

Suicide is twice as likely as homicide, according to Flick, but the media and entertainment industries have taken precautions against excessive coverage.

“We do a very good job of keeping suicide out of the news and movies, and we do it on purpose,” Flick said. She cited the “contagion effect,” or the belief that viewing or hearing about suicide may cause a general belief that it is an accepted act.

Intervention and treatment

Unfortunately, not discussing suicide does more harm than good, according to Flick. Common myths about suicide include believing that talking about it will give others the idea to do it, that it is an attention seeking behavior, and that intervening takes away a persons right to choose.
Flick said these beliefs could impair the ability to save the life of someone at-risk.

It is important to educate society, especially children, on the causes of suicide, Flick said, especially because society has not yet accepted depression as an illness.

“If your kid has the flu, are you going to spank them to make them feel better?” Flick explained. “If it were in their control to feel better, they would have already done that.”

Aside from suicide, possible consequences of not being treated for depression or another mental illness include failing at school or work, low self-esteem, drug use, or a relapse or worsening of depression.

Depression also results in a lower immune system, which makes the rate of physical illness or death four times higher.

Some treatments for depression include medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, which attempts to change negative thought patterns, and environmental changes, such as reducing stress and conflict, increasing sleep, increasing ones skills for feelings of self-worth and hospitalization.


It is important that families who have lost loved ones to suicide be open and honest about the death, especially to children, Flick said. Many children will blame themselves for the act, but it’s important for them to understand that suicide is caused by multiple factors, including illness. Families who have experienced a suicide may have difficulty due to stigmas placed on the act by society and religion, Flick said. Survivors are often treated as if they may also be sick or dysfunctional, when they are not.

Special support groups for survivors of suicide include: Parents of Suicide, Friends and Family of Suicide, Compassionate Friends and the Survivors of Suicide Loss Support groups, which has a location in Statesville and Charlotte.

Source: http://www2.morganton.com/content/2009/dec/11/depression-and-suicide-related-medical-condition-n/lifestyles/

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