Depression and Suicide

While most people who have depression do not die by suicide, there does appear to be a relationship between the two. Besides depression, there are a number of other suicide risk factors (for example, having a history of other mental disorders). Family and community support is one example of a protective factor that can buffer people from the risks associated with suicide.

Depression and Suicide: An Introduction

Clinical depression is a lot more common than most people think. It affects more than 17 million Americans each year. One-fourth of all women and one-eighth of all men will suffer at least one episode or occurrence of depression during their lifetimes. The condition affects people of all ages, but is less common in teenagers than it is in adults. Approximately 3 to 5 percent of the teen population experiences clinical depression every year.
Over the last 20 years, research scientists have made great advances in understanding the link between depression and suicide. For example, a lot has been learned about risk factors for suicide, as well as protective factors. Furthermore, researchers have gained knowledge about the risk of suicide in people from various age groups.

Are They Related?

Many people wonder if depression increases the risk of suicide and, if so, by how much. Although the majority of people who have depression do not die by suicide, having clinical depression (also known as major depression) does increase the suicide risk compared to people without depression.
The risk of death by suicide may, in part, be related to the severity of the depression. New data on suicide and depression suggests that about 2 percent of those people ever treated for depression in an outpatient setting will die by suicide. Among those ever treated for depression in an inpatient hospital setting, the rate of death by suicide is twice as high (4 percent). Those treated for depression as inpatients following suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts are about three times as likely to die by suicide (6 percent) as those who were only treated as outpatients.
There are also dramatic gender differences in the lifetime risk of suicide in people with depression. While about 7 percent of men with a lifetime history of the condition will die by suicide, only 1 percent of women with a lifetime history will die by suicide.
Another way of thinking about depression and suicide risk is to examine the lives of people who have died by suicide and see what proportion of them were depressed. It is estimated that about 60 percent of people who commit suicide have had a mood disorder (major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia, for example). Often, younger persons who kill themselves have a substance abuse disorder in addition to being depressed.
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