You’ve been showing signs of depression lately – prolonged sadness, self-isolation, problems eating and sleeping – but somehow, you still manage to go about your daily life. Your family and friends are concerned, and you’ve heard whispered questions: Should we be worried about suicide? What can we do to help? But another question needs to be answered: Can you be suicidal without having depression?
What is Depression?
Depression is a widespread and severe medical condition that negatively influences your feelings, thoughts, and actions. Thankfully, it also can be treated. If you’re depressed, you may be sad or lose interest in things you used to enjoy doing and, eventually, have a range of psychological and physical problems that affect your quality of life and how you function at work and home.
Does Depression Lead to Suicide?
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, most suicides are related to a psychiatric disorder, but some triggers portend someone taking their life. “However, anxiety, personality-, eating-, trauma-related disorders, and organic mental disorders also contribute.”
Although most people with depression don’t die by suicide, having major depression increases the risk compared to someone without depression. However, risk factors may increase due to how severe the depression is.
New data on depression from long-time observation periods proposes that about 2% of those treated for depression on an outpatient basis will die by suicide. For those treated inpatient, death by suicide jumps to 4%. People treated for depression on an inpatient basis with a history of suicidal thoughts or attempts are nearly three times as likely to commit suicide (6%) compared to others treated as outpatients. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, gender identification plays a role when considering the lifetime risk of suicide in someone with depression. Data suggests that about 7% of men who’ve been depressed most of their lives will die by suicide, compared to 1 percent of women with a life-long history of depression.
The risk of suicide and depression have an obvious link, but you could also consider the lives of people who took their own lives and document the proportion of them dealing with depression. In this case, it’s estimated that nearly 60% of people who commit suicide have experienced a mood disorder. Substance abuse disorder also plays a factor, particularly among younger people experiencing depression.
The question remains: Can you be suicidal without having depression? Yes. Many factors can increase the risk of someone attempting suicide who isn’t depressed.
Jason Manning, Associate Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University, points to several other reasons someone may die by suicide, including:
- Financial issues, loss of income or employment, rising debts, plummeting rates of return on retirement accounts, and many others. According to the American Public Health Association, suicide rates increase when the economy is bad.
- Shame due to gossip and scandal.
- The risk of suicide may also increase because of fractured relationships. According to the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, a study of 400,000 Americans indicated the risk of suicide doubled in the case of divorce.
- Strife and social conflict.
Yes, you can be suicidal without being depressed. As we’ve already seen, situations and events can influence someone’s decision to commit suicide. But what else? Someone may be driven to suicide by intoxication because they have access to firearms, have a serious or long-term health condition, experience long-term stress, and many other factors.
Suicide is a serious public health risk that shouldn’t be ignored. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12.2 million people thought about suicide in 2020, 3.2 million planned suicide, and 1.2 million attempted suicide. Of those numbers, more than 46,000 people took their own lives.
To reduce the risk of suicide, it’s essential to watch for critical warning signs:
- Increased use of alcohol and drugs
- Self-isolation from family, friends, and community
- Intense mood changes
- Reckless or risky behavior
- Increased stress
- Significant life changes
If you think you’re depressed and at risk of suicide, talk with your healthcare provider or a mental health specialist for diagnosis and treatment options like psychotherapy or medicine, including ketamine. There are also online resources that may be able to help, such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and others.