Don’t ignore depression signs

Mental health illnesses are not a joke, especially when it leads to someone committing suicide.

One in five American adults experience a mental health condition every year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Half of mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75 percent of mental health conditions develop by age 24.

In light of Chester Bennington’s suicide Thursday, now is the perfect time to talk about depressive disorders. Bennington, 41, was the lead singer of the metal band Linkin Park. He isn’t the first celebrity to have committed suicide related to depression issues. In 2014, Robin Williams hung himself. On Tuesday former MLB pitcher John Rheinecker, 38, committed suicide. Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, hung himself in May.

But it isn’t just celebrities that face depression issues.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health Illness, an estimated 16 million American adults – almost 7 percent of the population – had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. All ages, ethnicities, genders and classes experience depression. However, women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression, and young adults between 18-25 are 60 percent more likely to have depression than people aged 50 or older.

A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple, linking causes. Genetics, environment and lifestyle influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events like being the victim of a crime. Biochemical processes and circuits and basic brain structure may play a role, too.

Each year 44,193 Americans die by suicide, about 121 per day. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in Arizona. In this state, suicides are the leading cause of death for children aged 10-14 and second leading cause of death for those aged 15-34. For every 100,000 people, the average age-adjusted rate of suicides in Arizona is 18 years old. Arizona is also ranked No. 12 in the U.S.

Not everyone with depression commits suicide, and not every suicide is caused by a mental illness. However, depression is a debilitating disorder. It’s not as simple as “you’re just sad” or “you’re going through a rough patch.” Depression is a serious mental health condition that require others to understand and aid the afflicted. When depression goes untreated, or worse, openly mocked and scorned, that’s when it can have devastating consequences.

However, all hope isn’t lost. If caught early, depression often responds to treatment. Treatment can be as simple as exercising or as complicated as psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy and interpersonal therapy).

Treatment options for depression and a helpline can be found online at the National Alliance on Mental Health Illness website. There is also a national suicide prevention lifeline that is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

It is important to take any signs and symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts seriously. Listen to your friends, family and loved ones if they tell you they’re feeling depressed. It isn’t a cry for attention. It’s a cry for help.