Today is February 21, 2020 -
by Glen H. Fineman, L.I.M.H.P., M.S.W., Therapist
Mental illness is one of the most difficult health issues to detect or observe in ourselves or in someone else. Yet, as we read in last month’s KOL it is estimated that 46.6 million people age 18 or older has a type of mental illness. One of the main reasons for this is due to increased societal stressors, and it is more difficult to see or identify mental than physical illness. In addition, the suicide rate, which can be the result of a mental disorder, in the U.S has increased by over 24% through 2016, and is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., based on the CDC’s statistics, the highest since World War II. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in ten people with mental illness consider or follow through with suicide.
Of the many types of mental illness, Major Depressive Disorders (MDD), which include Bipolar Disorders, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) are characterized by a combination of symptoms that can be triggered by genetics and stressful life events, including one’s environment. Such stressful events can include death of a loved one, loss of a job, major health changes, or family problems. Signs and symptoms of MDD, according to the DSM V, for children, teens, and adults, include prolonged sadness, worthlessness and hopelessness, anxiety, worry, anger, loss of energy, social withdrawal and isolation, loss of pleasure in interests, among other life changes. Reactions to any of the aforementioned life changes lasting more than a few weeks, that also show new patterns of behaviors and attitudes could be major depression, and should indicate a need for awareness, attention, and reaching out to that person. Untreated or under-treated depressive disorders can lead to other health problems and/or suicide.
It is often difficult for the individual with depression to recognize or admit being depressed and/or being in denial that there is anything wrong. Perhaps the most difficult or traumatic aspect of depression is the effect it has on family and friends. Although early intervention can help the person with any type of depressive disorder, learning coping skills, and healthier ways to adjust to life stressors, there is no guarantee of lasting success. In the case of suicide, reactive feelings of guilt, anger, frustration, self-blame, and questions of what could I have done differently are very common thoughts. The best response to these feelings is that each of us needs to learn the best way to live with these situations effectively, not find fault, but strengths. It is recommended to seek professional help, use community support groups, and seek emotional support from family and friends.
For further information, contact NAMI at (402) 345-8101, or the suicide crisis hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
The Mental Health Series is presented by Beth El Synagogue and the Jennifer Beth Kay Memorial Fund.