Robin Williams: Suicide and Depression

This is a post from Derek Bowles, Co-Owner and Primary Therapist at Crossroads Academy, that he wrote last week after Robin Williams suicide. He makes some good points.
“I wanted to take a moment to respond to the lost of Robin Williams and to post my thoughts about suicide and to discuss the process on what may happen when someone with a depression or anxiety decides to end their life. The brain and central nervous system are powerful and amazing healing tools. We are wired to try and resolve emotional conflict, anxiety, fears, and depression. This is often the battle that many people discuss that they are constantly trying to return to what is “normal” or what we might call homeostasis. The brain/central nervous system are driven to do this almost at any cost. When a person is consistently in a state of crisis (anxiety) or depression (fear, unresolved trauma) the mind, (thoughts/thinking) and central nervous systems (emotions/feelings) try and correct or resolve the problem. This is why the standard treatment is cognitive behavioral treatment. This treatment has been shown to eleviate the depression or anxiety by changing the thoughts/thinking (positive reframe) and or making changes behaviorally through (exercise/prayer/meditation/) which in turn change the central nervous system and elevate or calm mood. Here is where suicide often times becomes an option, as the brain and central nervous system are searching for a way to return to “normal” or homeostasis the “thought” enters the brain that if I was no longer alive I would not “feel” this way anymore. For that brief moment when the though is first introduced there is an elevation of mood and a return to homeostasis as the brain has found a solution to the problem. In a way the natural and very powerful system that keeps us alive is hacked by our thinking. Almost immediatley the person rationally decides that this may not be the best option and so on. For most once they decide this is NOT an option the depression or anxiety returns and the person continues on a search for a way to return to homeostasis. But for a few, this thought triggers a PROCESS that they may return to time and time again to help elevate mood, reduce anxiety and so forth. For most there is almost always a rational and practical voice that considers the possible harm that may come from suicide and this thinking usually prevails. But when the depression or anxiety becomes chronic, when drug or alcohol are involved (drastically reduces inhibition) , or circumstances become OR APPEAR drastic, a lost of job, relationship, etc…. the option of suicide often times becomes the only way the person feels and believes that they may stop the pain. Suicide becomes an option, because in a very REAL way it elevates the depression or decreases the anxiety in that moment they decide to end their life. One of the biggest signs of an impending suicide is a sudden and drastic change and elevation in mood. The person for the first time in a long time no longer feels the constant anxiety or depression and has found a way to return to homeostasis. As a therapist when I explain this to clients who have had suicide ideation or intent to self harm they almost immediatley understand the PROCESS and recognize how this has played out for them in their struggles. When I educate them on this process most clients can begin to look for additional options and consider alternative more adaptive ways of coping. There are those few clients who have taken this process and enmeshed it into their interpersonal relationships as a way to connect or avoid abandonment, those few clients can be more complicated and the process can be more intense but they too can begin to understand the PROCESS. It is my hope that as a society if we can better understand the PROCESS we might be better able to help those who are so desperately trying to find peace. Please consider this as you think about people you know who may have attempted or committed suicide. Please show empathy and demonstrate kindness and understanding. Don’t be afraid to talk about the process and help normalize the thoughts and feelings so that we can better help our friends and family …. just a few thoughts.”
To learn more about Derek please go here.

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