Friday, September 5, 2014

Depression and suicide- Tips and warning signs

Depression and suicide- Tips and warning signs

By: Rachel Brummert
President/Executive Director
Quinolone Vigilance Foundation

The death of actor and comedian Robin Williams made headlines this week. I think it is safe to say that it has brought about reflection and it opened a conversation about something that isn’t talked about nearly as often as it should be: depression.

Reflecting on that, I think about the fluoroquinolone community that we deal with and do our best to help.

I’ve been President/ Executive Director of Quinolone Vigilance Foundation for just over two years. I’ve been dealing with adverse reactions from Levaquin and Cipro for about 8 years. In that time, I’ve had many people in the fluoroquinolone community call me who are suicidal and I have had to call police and rescue squad to their home.

We focus a lot on the physical aspects of the aftereffects of fluoroquinolones- tendon ruptures, Central Nervous System (CNS) damage, peripheral neuropathy, muscle wasting, joint pains. But what we don’t often talk about is the emotional aspects of suffering so much and the direct link to depression and anxiety caused by these drugs. I think it may be because when we speak of the emotional aspects of it, there is that taboo of being labeled as “crazy” by the medical and pharmaceutical industries. I don’t think I can count high enough how many times I’ve heard peoples’ stories and they were labeled for being depressed about what is happening to them. They are written off and dismissed. The damage from these drugs are very real, and the effects are far reaching.

The thing about depression is that it is so insidious, so damaging, so secretive. People who become depressed reach a point of desperation and hopelessness. There is no cure for fluoroquinolone toxicity. The pain it causes can’t always be put into words, most of us have had to leave careers we loved because we became disabled after taking an antibiotic that was supposed to help us feel better.

It affects our families too. So often I hear that peoples’ families are not supportive or they are dismissive, which can lead to even more isolation.

If you know someone going through depression, there are some tips to consider:

  • Fluoroquinolone Toxicity is very real.

  • Listen. Let the person express how they feel and don’t dismiss it. You can’t fix it, but you can be there for them. If they reach out to you, remember that it is very hard for someone who is depressed to do so. They reached out for a reason.

  • Don’t tell someone to “get over it”. Depression is a medically recognized disease. They can’t help it any more than someone can if they have heart disease. It takes time to battle back from depression so be patient too.

  • Do reach out to them. Depression is so isolating. They may not always want to talk, but sometimes just knowing someone cares enough to reach out to check in is enough to open that dialog. If they don’t want to talk, that is okay too. It’s not you. People tend to open up more when they know that the option is there, and know they won’t be judged for what they tell you. People who are depressed are overly critical of themselves as it is; judging, criticizing, or making them feel guilty for what they can’t do will only serve to deepen what they are already thinking of themselves and you become part of the problem, not the solution.

  • Do look for the warning signs of suicidal ideation. Unfortunately, that can happen, and it has happened to people in our community. Get them help. You’re not betraying a friendship or relationship by telling someone who can help them, even if they swear you to secrecy. It means you value that relationship and that person enough to try to get them the help they need. There is difference between depression and being suicidal.

  • If a person is suicidal or in danger of hurting themselves or others, getting that person immediate help is critical. Seek the help of professionals. A hospital can hold someone who is in danger of hurting themselves or others for a 72 hour hold to determine what is best for that person. Legal decisions about keeping someone in a hospital can be dealt with after they are evaluated.

  • Recognize your own limitations when you are trying to help someone who is depressed. Know when to reach out for assistance. You won’t be of use to someone if you don’t take care of yourself too.

  • Don’t argue with a suicidal person and avoid phrases like “You have so much to live for”, “It will hurt your family”, or “Look on the bright side”.

.Myths vs Truth:

  • It is a myth that those who talk about suicide are less likely to actually do it. Often, there are some clues in the days or weeks prior. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone.”   “I can’t find my way out.” Giving their things away to people they love. The truth can be buried in humor or sarcastic comments about death, so be sure to really listen to what and how they say things.

  • It is a myth that depressed people are “crazy” or “insane” or mentally ill. They are hurting, physically and/or emotionally. Depression and mental illness are not the same thing.

  • It is a myth that someone who is determined will find any way possible to kill themselves. Most often, they have mixed feelings about it, even at the last second, nor do they want to die. They just want the pain to stop.

  • It is a myth that someone who wants to kill themselves won’t accept help. Studies show that over 50% of those who wanted to kill themselves get help in the six months prior.

  • It is a myth that people who talk to their friends or family about this issue will give them more ideas. In fact, the best thing you can do is talk to them and open a conversation about how they are feeling.

Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
  • I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
  • Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
  • I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
Questions you can ask:
  • When did you begin feeling like this?
  • Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
  • How can I best support you right now?
  • Have you thought about getting help?
What you can say that helps:
  • You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
  • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
  • When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.
Levels of Risk:
Low: Some suicidal thoughts. No plan. States they will not kill themselves.
Moderate: Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan that isn’t lethal. States that they will not kill themselves.
High: Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is lethal. Says that they will not kill themselves.

The National Hotline in the United States is 1-800-273-TALK.

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