Danielle: Good evening, Jacksonville, and happy Saturday. I’m Danielle Leigh, and welcome to the conversation with Dr. Ali Kasraeian. As always, you too can join the conversation. Give us a call, 340-1045. Dr. Ali, how are you today?
Dr. Kasraeian: I am good. I am good. I am happy to be here in studio with all of you. Bittersweet topic today.
Dr. Kasraeian: But I think it’s a very important topic today. In light of recent events, a lot of … you know, we talk about depression a lot. Unfortunately, we talk about a lot of reasons to pay mind to depression. One of the things that’s a very important thing to think about is depression is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, and one of three causes that actually is on the rise currently. The CDC recently released a study showing that between 1999 and 2016 US suicide rate increased by 25%. Broken down a bit further, in women it increased more so than in men, which is a very interesting finding being that historically, and even currently, suicide rates in men are about three to five times higher in men than they are in women. However, with a 50% increase in suicides among women nationally compared to a 21% increase in suicides among men in that same time period, could there be a situation where we’re beginning to see those differences and trends equalizing over time if these increased tendencies continue?
Obviously in the media over the past few weeks we’ve been deeply saddened by the very public celebrity suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, people that are very near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts. Anthony Bourdain really opened the world to a lot of people and inspired a lot of people. I know a lot of people personally that he inspired a lot of travel and exploration and opening their minds to new things, so they’re very deeply saddened by his passing. But it opens up a conversation for us to be mindful of the power of depression, of pushing someone to a point where they can make a decision where the only option they see is taking their own life.
So today we hope that with our illustrious panel, we can talk about this in a way that can allow us hope and ways of looking at depression and the feelings associated with it in a way that we can come off the other side with help. People you can talk to, ways of reaching out to people you love, people that you care about yourself, and knowing how to have those conversations if you’re worried about someone that’s dear to you so that we can hopefully reverse the trends of these new statistics.
In studio with me discussing this topic is Dr. Tracy Alloway, who is a professor of psychology at UNF, an author, an expert in many things including essentially the adolescent mind and the implications of the worlds around us on that. We talk about social media with her in the past. We’ve talked about many different things. And we’ll talk about how those things could potentially impact the mind of the young as they mature and the implications of things like what happened in the past week, studies like this, access to that information on social media to someone who may be on the fence at a young age.
Also, calling in by phone is Dr. Marcus De Carvalho, a psychiatrist who is well-versed in many, many things that we talk about all the time: opioid addiction, recovery, depression. All of those things are things we talk about, and unfortunately go hand in hand when someone is in a situation when they’re considering taking their life. And what we’re gonna do today is hopefully talk about how people get to that point and things we can do to potentially get out of that moment without taking one’s life.
I know this is a deeply sensitive topic. If anyone wants to call in and talk please let us know. One number that I want everyone to be aware of, the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. Anyone thinking about taking their life, if you’re feeling down, if there’s anything going on talk to your doctor, talk to someone. That could be the most important conversation that you have. If you’re worried about someone you care about talk to them. Make those calls. And today, we’ll have those discussions.
So everyone, thank you for being in studio.
Alloway: Thank you.
DeCarvalho: Thank you.
Dr. Kasraeian: So Doc, Dr. De Carvalho, so as a psychiatrist looking at these statistics, looking at the way that depression usually manifests and the fact that now, wonderfully, we are getting more and more attention as the years progress in terms of the importance of mental health as a disease and importance of mental health as a point of discussion, as opposed to something that in the past no one ever spoke about. How do we move from that to a point where now, in the media, we see things like we saw last week? Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and now this study coming in there, and how people interpret this in both the positive and negative, and the fact that we really don’t know why this is happening. Everyone has theories. Could it be societal? Mental health? One interesting statistic said only 54% of the people that commit suicide actually have a diagnosis of mental health associated with this. And so it only takes one time for someone to be successful, so when you look at what happened in the past couple weeks and this new study released by the CDC, what are your thoughts?
DeCarvalho: Well, first thank you so much for having me on this show. I’m just really grateful to be able to share some of the knowledge and really be there for our community and provide resources for them, so thank you for having me. When I see this type of thing, and the CDC releases this data, as a psychiatrist suicide is not uncommon. I mean, this is what we are trained to seize out, to diagnose, and to treat our patients with, so I am not surprised that this information is coming out. I’m very grateful that it actually is.
And as far as somebody not having a mental health diagnosis committing suicide, that is not uncommon either. People, when they generally end their lives, normally it’s an impulsive act. Many of my patients I see over time, and they struggle with suicidal thoughts for 20, 30 years. And suicidal thinking versus intent and a plan to actually really end your life, that’s a big jump. And normally what we see, is we see people end their lives impulsively. No sign, no nothing. There may have been some underlying substance abuse that they’ve been using as a coping mechanism, or they may have very poor coping mechanisms. They may have had in their home access to firearms or access to drugs or something that could actually end their lives quickly, and some catastrophic event happens in their lives, they have no outlet, they don’t have the ability to cope or navigate through it, and they just jump to that, and they end their lives.
The majority of people that actually survive suicide attempts, when interviewed, and you can look up the data, are actually grateful they’ve survived. Because it’s a matter of time that will pass, that they get through that moment in life, that they actually thought about killing themselves, and once they get through that and see that it’s just time that can actually help them, they’re grateful they didn’t end their lives.
So I’m not surprised that that data came out, but I’m grateful. In one, that if you have a friend or a loved one that you know is struggling with something in their lives, it could be their finances, it could be a divorce, it could be an illness, it could be a situation with their children, just go to them. Be there for them. There’s nothing wrong with asking somebody, “Look, this may sound awkward, and you may not even be thinking this, but I know you’re going through a lot. Are you ever having any thoughts of ending your life? Or as that being a way out? Because anything you tell me is not gonna scare me, frazzle me, freak me out, but I just wanna be there for you.” And if that person is actually contemplating that, they are gonna be grateful because that is a rescue attempt. That will allow them to get out of that. The majority of people that are thinking about ending their lives, they just need somebody to come in and ask that question.
You know, often in our communities we think, “Well, if I say that, if I do that, I’m gonna plant a seed in their mind, and then they’re gonna end their lives because I said that.” That is not true, and there’s no data to support that actually. The data actually supports that if you question somebody, and it could be awkward, it could be out of nowhere, just say something as, “Are you having suicidal thoughts?” That will actually save their lives.
Dr. Kasraeian: Which is important-
DeCarvalho: As far as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, it was revealed that she did have an underlying mental health issue. And Anthony Bourdain, he looked like he was at the top of his career, he looked like things were going great, but nobody really knows what was going on in his life. He did have a history of substance abuse, and during that time, you know, life allows us to develop coping skills. It allows us to step into our lives and kind of deal with the stresses of our lives. Nobody really knows what he was facing, and-