external image Depression.jpg

Depression and Suicide

What is Depression?
"From an occupational therapy perspective, people with depression typically do not have the energy or drive to participate in the things that are important to them,” says Lisa Mahaffey, MS, OTR/L, an occupational therapist at Linden Oaks Hospital in Naperville, Illinois.

What Causes Depression?

The causes of depression vary. For some people, depression is caused by a decrease of different chemicals in the brain, and may be genetic. For others, “the cause can be life events—the inability to gain satisfaction from their relationships, or life experiences that failed to provide them with the skills to manage and cope with their responsibilities,” Mahaffey says (AOTA, 2009).

Facts about Depression: thenewagenda.net_-_Copy.jpg
  • As many as 20 million people in the United States, or one in five are diagnosed each year with clinical depression.
  • Approximately 12% of men and 20% of women in the U.S. will experience major depression at some point in their lives.
  • Despite advances in new medications being developed with fewer side effects, depression will persist in 15% to 39% of cases after 1 year, and in 22% of cases after 2 years of onset.
  • The chronicity of depression is an even greater cause for concern; each episode increases the chances of another by 16%. Individuals who have had three or more episodes of depression have a 90% risk of having another (Costa, 2008).

Depression in Children:
  • Current epidemiological studies estimate that between .3% and 1.4% of preschool children, between 1% and 2% of prepubescent children, and between 3% and 8% of adolescents, are diagnosed with depression.
  • Depression can present as a chronic illness in children, and it can lead to significant impairment of academic performance and interpersonal skills. It can also lead to suicidal ideation, and there may be nonverbal cues, such as giving away prized possessions (Costa, 2008).

Depression in Adolescents:
  • The 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that major depression affects approximately 8.5% of youths between ages 12 and 17, and they increase with age.
  • Depression among adolescents leads to impaired performance in school and in social situations, but it also affects functioning at work (Costa, 2008).

Depression in the Elderly:
  • Approximately 15% of those aged 65 years and older and 80% of those older than 85 experience depression.
  • The rates of depression are higher among elders living in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (37%) compared with those living in the community (8% to 20%).
  • Suicide rates among depressed elderly persons are 5.5 times the national average (Costa, 2008).

How Can Occupational Therapy Help?

Occupational therapy practitioners can examine the life roles that are meaningful to clients with depression and help adapt their responsibilities to give them the opportunity to participate and gain a sense of accomplishment. Practitioners then determine what interferes with a person’s ability to meet those responsibilities, such as a getting to work late everyday or finding work tasks overwhelming. Occupational therapy practitioners can help persons with depression examine how to balance leisure, work, and relationships. “We look at daily structure and include certain occupations and strategies to ensure that clients follow through on things so that they meet the responsibilities of the roles that are meaningful to them,” Mahaffey says (AOTA, 2009).


Suicide is the process of purposely ending one's own life and is a major public health problem. Nearly 1 million people worldwide commit suicide each year, with anywhere from 10 million to 20 million suicide attempts annually. About 30,000 people reportedly kill themselves each year in the United States. The true number of suicides is likely higher because some deaths that were thought to be an accident, like a single-car accident, , or shooting, are not recognized as being a suicide (Dryden-Edwards, 2011).

Some facts about suicide:
  • Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in males and the 16th leading cause of death in females.
  • In the United States, boys 10-14 years of age commit suicide twice as often as their female peers.
  • Teenage boys 15-19 years of age complete suicide five times as often as girls their age, and men 20-24 years of age commit suicide 10 times as often as women their age.
  • Gay, lesbian, and other sexual minority youth are more at risk for thinking about and attempting suicide than heterosexual teens.
  • The rate of suicide can vary with the time of year, as wells as with the time of day (Dryden-Edwards, 2011).

While suicide is not universally preventable, it is possible to recognize some warning signs and symptoms that may enable you or your loved ones to access treatment before a suicide attempt. It has been estimated that up to 75% of suicide victims display some warning signs or symptoms (Dryden-Edwards, 2011).

Here are some warning signs to look out for:
Symptoms may vary
  • Talk of, or preoccupation with, suicide or death; threatening suicide; writing about death or suicide
  • Signs of serious depression, including desperation; feelings of hopelessness; feeling no sense of purpose; loss of interest in things one used to care about; trouble sleeping
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Reckless behavior, increased risk-taking, irritability
  • Making statements about life not being worth living, hating life, that the "world would be better off without me," and similar feelings
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Feelings of rage or uncontrolled anger
  • Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other methods to commit suicide
  • Changing wills, preoccupation with putting one's affairs in order
  • Dramatic changes in personality (Stoppler, 2008)

If you suspect suicidal thoughts in yourself or anyone, seek professional help immediately. Go to a clinic, emergency room, or psychiatric facility. Do not leave an individual alone who has expressed thoughts of suicide. In the United States, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-SUICIDE (784-2433) http://www.suicide.org.

Possible Assessments for Depression:

Beck Depression Inventory
Depression and Suicide

Children's Depression Inventory
Depression and Suicide

Mental Health America online screening tool
Depression and Suicide

Geriatric Depression Scale (Short Form)
Depression and Suicide

Links for more info on depression!

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTuIsRLt9lNfOt8T4e8U2XGobTqKLRJeLCJrA7q7AxLgLFXsw7EHA
Links for more info on suicide!
American Association for Suicidology
Depression and Suicide

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Depression and Suicide

Costa, Donna (2008) Depression: An equal opportunity illness. OTPractice. 13(21).

Dryden-Edwards,Roxanne, MD. (2011). Suicide. Retrieved from: http://www.medicinenet.com/suicide/article.htm

Opp, Ashely (2009). Occupational therapy and depression: Reconstructing lives. Retrieved form: http://www.aota.org/Consumers/Professionals/WhatIsOT/MH/Articles/40822.aspx

Stoppler, Melissa Conrad, MD. (2008). Suicide Warning Signs. Retrieved from: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=93556