Depression is a dangerous ‘hidden epidemic’

Tony Lange

Substance, alcohol abuse often contribute

If you think a handy pistol with a side of whiskey and a dash of testosterone is risky business, try adding a hint of depression to the mix.

Treating depression helps prevent suicide, said Amie Cajka, community relations director at the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County. The hidden epidemic often goes unnoticed, she said, but 80 percent of people talk about suicide before they actually follow through.

“People with depression are at high risk for suicide,” Cajka said. “People who have depression and are using substances are at an even higher risk.”

Depression and alcohol abuse are the most significant risk factors for suicide, according to a Portage County Suicide Prevention Coalition flier.

In fact, one-third of people who commit suicide test positive for alcohol, according to the 2005 National Violent Death Reporting System.

So, what does risky social behavior have to do with hormones and handguns?

While women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men, men take their own lives at nearly four times the rate, representing nearly 80 percent of all U.S. suicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When a man attempts suicide, he may complete it at a more successful rate than a woman because he is using more aggressive ways of ending his life, such as weapons or jumping, said Pamela Farer-Singleton, chief psychologist at the University Health Center. However, the fact that females self-report their attempts more so than men may skew statistics, she said.

“They tend to be the majority of the students that we see because women are more verbal about their pain.” Farer-Singleton said.

According to CDC, firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide among males, at 57.6 percent. Females’ most common method is poisoning at 39.1 percent.

Other factors putting individuals at suicide risk include: significant loss by separation or death, social isolation, history of abuse or neglect, a family history of suicide and previous attempts, according to Portage’s Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Contact social services reporter Tony Lange at [email protected].