On July 20, it was declared that Chester Bennington, frontman of the popular band Linkin Park, committed suicide. On July 31, 14-year-old Mumbaiite Manpreet Singh committed suicide as part of an online game. In both cases — like most suicides — no one saw it coming. However, experts are of the opinion that raising awareness about depression, which leads to suicidal tendencies, can go a long way in preventing such cases.
“Bennington was 41 and the teenager was only 14. These examples prove that the tendency to commit suicide can occur in any group, even among senior citizens. Mostly, this is due to drawn out extreme depression which if handled at the right time could have saved a life,” says Neeta V Shetty, life coach and psychotherapist, Blissful Mind Therapy Centre, Wadala (E).
Who is prone?
“The exact cause of depressive disorders is not known. A combination of factors is usually involved. Stressful life events can trigger depression, they do not cause it. Chronic illnesses and alcohol or recreational drug abuse can also make an individual prone to developing depression. Conversely, an individual with depression becomes more susceptible developing chronic illnesses and is more likely to abuse sleeping pills, alcohol and drugs,” says Dr Shamsah Sonawalla, consultant psychiatrist, Jaslok Hospital & Research Center, Pedder Road.
Those with a family history of depression and those who have developed past depression are more susceptible. Coming from families of different backgrounds such as broken homes, alcoholic father, having parents who are working and have no time for the children are another group. People who recover from a major sickness and passing through a difficult stage of life, like a child is appearing for a board exam or other national entrance exams are more vulnerable. Those who come from a socially disturbed family like underprivileged children, alcoholism, mental sickness, drug addiction in the family are vulnerable too. Women passing through menopause and postnatal period are also vulnerable to depression.
Dr Sonawalla lists the following symptoms of depression:
1. Feeling of sadness or emptiness.
2. Irritability, outburst of anger.
3. Feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.
4. Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
5. Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or excessive sleep.
6. Fatigue, low energy.
7. Decrease in appetite and weight loss or increase in appetite and weight gain.
8. Feeling of guilt, worthlessness or self blame.
9. Difficulty in thinking and concentrating, forgetfulness.
11. Slowed speech and slowed body movements.
12. Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide.
Role of family
When one is going through a bad patch, more often the ones who bear the brunt first are loved ones and family members. Hence, an understanding and supportive family plays a vital role in preventing depression.
“A healthy and positive family atmosphere is very important in eliminating the risk of depression. It is not possible to be always happy. So if there is someone in the family who is feeling low or agitated, the role of the other members is to be calm and discuss it later on. Engaging in healthy communication is very important,” says Namrata Dagia, clinical psychologist, hypnotherapist and founder, The Illuminating Zone, Kandivali (W).
She also suggests other habits such as having a family dinner once in a week, if not possible every day, where the entire family also has conversations. A scheduled monthly dine out or a quarterly trip will help too.
With inputs from Dr Kedar Tilwe, consultant psychiatrist, Dept. of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis’ S. L Raheja Hospital, Mahim.