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