Depression, Anxiety and Suicidal Thoughts Due to Acute or Chronic Stress- What to Do

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We do tend to see an increase in depression with financial strain, acute or chronic stress reactions (exposure to trauma or overwhelming stress), marital strain, loss (job, loved ones through death/moving/separation/ divorce), debilitating physical illness, hormonal imbalances (sexual hormones or thyroid hormones), time of year (seasonal depression – which we are now in the time of year where we see an increase in that as the length of daylight hours get shorter; anniversaries of traumatic dates), overuse of alcohol/ opiates/other illicit substances, or certain medications. Over the past year I have been asked the following questions by patients, colleagues, journalists and friends. I thought I would share them with you all in the hopes that it might be helpful to someone you know. Most of the questions have to do with stress due to economy and financial issues; however, the answers are applicable to many other acute stress reactions and chronic stressors as well. This is a hard topic for many to discuss due to feeling so alone. You are not alone.

1. Have you seen an increase in cases of stress, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts in your practice due specifically to the financial crisis?
I have seen an increase in cases of stress, anxiety, and depression as a result of the national financial crisis in both adults and children (as they pick up on their parents’ fears, anxiety and sadness). I have had some people reporting suicidal thoughts as a
result of their perception of doom, guilt and shame over their financial dilemmas.

2. What is your major advice to those cases?

I focus on changing perceptions of recent events for these people who present in crisis. I suggest that people stop listening to the news except for a brief period once a day so that they do not have continual stimulation of their worst fears. I reassure them that
this is just a moment in time and that everything with the financial state will predictably change over time; that the stock market and financial downtrends will gradually improve with time. I tell them it is much like watching clouds floating by in the sky- there is a beginning, a middle and an end to any major crisis no matter what it is and that the sun will come out again with time.

For people that fear loss of retirement or college fund monies yet who have no intention of retiring or children leaving for college
for 5 or more years, I point out that the loss of money for them is either only on paper or in the ethers of the computer databases as their wealth will begin to grow again as the market recovers from the down trend and that it will indeed improve with time. I assist people with taking a look at their priorities and realizing that there are so many things that are more important than possessions and perceived status of cars, jobs, houses… such as family, relationships, and health. For those who truly seem to be on the edge of personal financial collapse, I have spoken with some who are truly in dire financial circumstances about considering bankruptcy, which was developed specifically to give someone a chance to start over financially.

I have had some people who think of suicide as an option to get life insurance monies for their family. I point out that many life
insurance policies have an exclusion of payment for anyone who commits suicide. Some people believe that suicide is a “way out”
and that their “troubles will end”- to those people I say that suicide creates a whole list of new troubles for the ones who are left behind to pick up the pieces. Risk of suicide increases dramatically once another family member has taken their own life; suicide then becomes a viable option for dealing with problems. Children, friends, and loved ones almost always blame them selves for the person’s death, even if a suicide note is left.

I recommend that people who are dealing with stressful situations be mindful of getting regular sleep, taking care of their body with good nutrition and some regular exercise. Exercise is a means of natural stress reduction and helps reset neurotransmitters to assist with combatting anxiety and depression. Taking time to take care of our own self to relax and play is important all of the time, not just during crisis situations.

3. What do you recommend to people that are living in such stress situations that have suicidal thoughts? How can they deal with those thoughts?
It is important to talk with someone about what/how you are thinking and what you are feeling such as trained mental health
professionals (therapists, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers), your family physician or family or friends. You are not alone. There is help available in the form of psychotherapy, support groups and antidepressant medication that can work fairly rapidly to improve mood.

4. Is there a way of preventing suicidal thoughts when people are depressed, or very stressed?
Perception and where you focus your thoughts are of key importance. We can look at everything as if the glass is half empty
constantly or we can choose to look at things as if the glass is half full. We energize what we think about- if we are always looking for the worst case scenario, then that is all we can see and we will have difficulty seeing the things that are still beautiful and wonderful in our life. Exercise, spending time with people and doing things that we love are helpful with keeping us focused on what is right and joyful in our lives. Antidepressant medication (Serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor agents) and/or mood stabilizing medication can help a great deal for those who seem to remain depressed in their mood for 2 or more weeks without relief. Hospitalization is an option for those who do not feel that they are able to keep them self from acting on suicidal thoughts.

It is hard to be aware of the Light when we are at the bottom of a deep, dark and seemingly endless hole. However, I have found that a person- no matter how hopeless in a given moment- can indeed be aware that the sun is rising once again if they allow a bit of support from others and ask for help…. from family, friends, counselors, clergy, mental health workers, clinical social workers, therapists, physicians, psychologists or psychiatrists. There IS help available and you do not have to feel this way forever. You are not abandoned as long as you do not abandon your self.

Loads of Light to all who are reading this-

Tracy Latz, M.D. (The Shift Doctor)

*Check out The Shift Doctors’ books at the Amazon link by clicking here and the Meditation CDs at the digstation link by clicking here

7 Comments
  • Anonymous
    Posted at 21:13h, 25 August Reply

    Thanx for this, I guess I’ll have to rethink my perspective after all these years.

  • Dave
    Posted at 06:35h, 26 August Reply

    Great post!

  • ingrid
    Posted at 17:25h, 26 October Reply

    SOMETIMES IT’S NOT JUST FINANCIAL,BUT A SENSE OF WORTHLESSNESS..NOT FUFILLING WHAT ONE PERCEIVES TO BE ABILITES..UNUSED ..WHAT IF THERE ARE NO LOVED ONES OR FRIENDS (DUE TO LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES)..A MIXTURE OF CHRONIC AND DEBILITATING HEALTH, FINANCIAL SITUATIONS,ALONENESS, AND AT THE AGE WHERE YOU ARE OF NO USE TO ANYONE OR DOES ANYONE CARE..(PEOPLE DO NEED SOME LOVE IN THE LIVES) A VERBALLY AND EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE *BOYFRIEND*,(NOT REALLY)..SOMETIMES THERE IS NO VALUE TO ONE’S LIFE….AT THIS JUNCTURE..THERE IS NO QUALITY..NOR QUANTITY..IT IS A DESPERATE FEELING AND THERE REALLY IS NO ONE TO SPEAK WITH…YES.. I HAD 20 YRS OF PUBLIC HEALTH MEDICINE….CAN’T BEGIN TO TELL YOU HOW LITTLE THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEMS ARE.actually helping..anyway..

  • Luchia
    Posted at 02:39h, 29 April Reply

    For Ingrid, I liked what I read earlier about ‘you’re never abandoned as long as you don’t abandon yourself’. Hang in there. I too have felt as you do. I had a big life and after some pretty big changes suddenly things got smaller and smaller to the point where I wondered if there was any point to anything at all. The philosophers and the artists say that when things get down to the grain of sand, that’s where you can really give your full attention to something and somehow I got forced into that through life in general. You are needed and somehow your being on the planet means something,probably in ways that you will never even know. I really liked that video ‘The 5 people you meet in Heaven’ (not the book the movie). It really showed how your life means something now matter what you happen to be thinking about it at the time. Food for thought, I am thinking about you. Take good care

    Luchia

  • Robert Bornstein
    Posted at 23:52h, 01 July Reply

    I once worked with an OT who was working with a suicide pt in the treatment unit and she was so great! She told the PT, We all on occasion have a suicidal thought, we just do not act upon it.” She then went over the Pt, diagnosis and the PT said, “Oh thank you so much you are the only person who explained all this to me so well.”

    When stressed, deep yoga breathing works wonders, visual imagery, a favorite song, taking a 10 minute cat nap, or 10 minutes of exercise all help. Oh and let’s not forget healthy chocolate!

  • unknown
    Posted at 02:10h, 30 March Reply

    I feel suicidal because my mothers boyfriend always treats me like shit calling me names like , whore , slut and a piece of shit . im not im back in school doing online classes and working a job and taking care of my mother while he works and comes home and gets drunk im sick of the verbal abuse its is getting old please help ?

    • Tracy Latz
      Posted at 16:04h, 30 March Reply

      Take a moment to read the post that you are posting on to see what you can do to not be a victim of your mother’s boyfriend &/or your mother. You are very powerful in your choices. If you are under the age of 18yo and are being physically/verbally/emotionally abused, then you can contact your local Child Protective Services at your local Department of Social Services and tell them what is going on. You can even do this via the internet which you appear to be savvy at using. 🙂 You could likely benefit from the assistance of a counselor to create more positive coping strategies other than contemplating suicide. If you are truly in danger of harming you self, then proceed to the nearest mental health facility or emergency room in your vicinity and they can find help for you.
      I am thrilled that you are still pursuing your education- this may be your ticket to a more peaceful life of independence outside of drama and chaos if that is the path you would like to choose. Surrounding you in Light as you choose the next step in creating your life anew.

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