Improving awareness of depression and suicide – World suicide prevention Day and R U Ok Day

August 4, 2014

It is World Suicide Prevention Day (Tuesday 10 September) and R U Ok Day (Thursday 12 September) this week. These two days aim to reduce stigma and get people talking about depression and suicide.

We have written this blog to contribute to a better understanding of depression and suicide and to reduce the stigma associated with it. Taking responsibility in knowing the warning signs of depression and learning to speak about it (rather than hiding from it) will help reduce the overwhelming incidence of suicide in Australia and Worldwide.

The Statistics

Almost one million people worldwide commit suicide each year. This equates to 1 death by suicide every 40 seconds! Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world (particularly young people)and is expected to account for 25% of the total disease burden in the world over the next two decades, beating cancer and heart disease in percentage accountability. For every person who commits suicide, there are 20 or more who make an attempt on their life.

Suicide is often the result of depression. At least 350 million people in the world live with depression. It impacts not only the sufferer but their loved ones too. Unfortunately depression and suicide remains hidden and many people don’t receive professional treatment or support.

How to Recognise Depression in Others (and yourself)

Depression is characterised by low mood, a reduced pleasure and interest in activities, poor sleep, appetite disturbance, social withdrawal, feelings of worthlessness, irritability, poor concentration and suicidal thinking and planning.

Ask Your Friend or Loved One: R U OK?

These details can be found in greater detail on the R U OK website.

  1. Ask R U OK?
  2. Listen without judgement
  3. Encourage action
  4. Follow up

What if you think the person is considering suicide?

While the awkwardness and difficulty of asking someone if they are having suicidal thoughts is completely understandable, I do urge that you ask the person you are worried about directly about suicidal thoughts and plans.

Take communicated thoughts of suicide seriously. Try not to become too upset, agitated or anxious- reassure him/her that suicidal thoughts are common in depressed mood and don’t have to be acted on. Also reassure him/her that there is help available and if they have been receiving help in the past that other options might be available.

Try and find out if the thoughts are fleeting or if they have been formulating a plan to take their life. This can be asked by questioning whether they have thought and/or decided on how they would take their life and if they have taken steps in preparation for it.

If you are concerned about his/her risk of suicide do not leave them alone (or ensure that when you do that someone else is aware and is committed to monitoring his/her safety) and get immediate professional help (Australian services listed below).

Treating Depressed Mood and Reducing Risk of Suicide

Depression does respond to treatment and reduces risk of suicide for many worldwide.

Treatment of moderate to severe depression typically involves a combination of medication and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT focuses on the implementation of some key strategies including:

Behavioural Activation/Activity Scheduling:

The lethargy circuit theory of depressed mood clearly states that depressed mood often results in reduced motivation and desire to engage in previously enjoyed activities. The concern is that engaging in fewer activities also then reinforces and worsens your mood. Scheduling regular activities into your diary and forcing yourself to do the things that you don’t feel like doing, has been shown to have significant positive impacts on mood.