Suicides in Japan have decreased in light of the COVID-19 lockdown. According to The Guardian, “the suicide rate in Japan fell by 20% in April compared with the same time last year, the biggest drop in five years.” The stay-at-home mandates affected about 40% of suicide prevention organizations that shut down or reduced workers’ hours. Also seeming to contribute to this drop includes the lack of commuting vs many people working long hours in the office.

In May, The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, a bipartisan bill, passed in the US Senate to make the national suicide prevention hotline a 3-digit number. Currently, the hotline is only accessible by the usual 10-digit number 1-800-273-TALK (8255). (If we’re honest, is not that easy to remember.) Should the bill pass in the House and get signed by the president, the number would be 9-8-8, however, the 10-digit number would still be valid.

A study published in General Hospital Psychiatry found that use of antidepressants among patients hospitalized with heart failure (HF) is associated with “minor depression, history of major depression, younger age, unemployment, white race, nonischemic heart failure, polypharmacy, and functional incapacity.” The study, held from 2014-2016, had 400 patients with HF enrolled and found that there was no increase in the patients with major depression taking antidepressants compared with those who did not have depression.

Katy Perry has revealed that she is experiencing waves of depression during the pandemic. While Stephen Fry, who has been outspoken about his struggle with bipolar disorder, admitted that he’s tried to commit suicide at least 3 times.

“There’s no future. There’s no sense of anything ahead of you. And you have to hope something will stop you. In my case it was just failed attempts and waking up in a hospital.”

Fry cited music, namely Beethoven, as a coping mechanism.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Ebselen, an experimental bipolar disorder drug, has been found by British researchers to work like lithium but without lithium’s side effects. In mice. In testing, mice that were somehow made manic with “small doses of amphetamine” were placated with ebselen. Researchers are now moving on to testing on healthy human volunteers before studying those suffering with bipolar disorder.


A study, published in JAMA Neurology, discovered that retired NFL players were more likely to suffer from depression and brain impairment. The study comes on the heels of the suicides of Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling, and Junior Seau. Researchers suspect a link between “hard hits to the head and depression.” These problems have also been noted in NHL players and combat soldiers who have suffered a brain injury. Many of the retired NFL players developed a type of brain damage called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Duerson and Easterling were found to have CTE during autopsy. In related sports news, the UK’s Telegraph reports that depression is a problem for soccer players in England and Scotland.


According to Time magazine, ketamine—a drug that induces hallucinations and other trippy effects—may hold potential as an antidepressant.

And now scientists report on two formulations of drugs with ketamine’s benefits, but without its consciousness-altering risks, that could advance the drug even further toward a possible treatment for depression.

Ketamine is seen as a fast-acting antidepressant for those at high risk for suicide. GLYX-13, mentioned here previously, is a ketamine-like antidepressant currently in clinical trials. AstraZeneca has AZD6765, a “ketamine mimic” that does not appear to be as effective as actual ketamine.

New research has discovered that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of domestic violence. Even though the study evaluated men and women, the results for women were overwhelmingly striking.

It finds that women with symptoms of depression were 2.5 times more likely to have experienced domestic violence over their lifetimes than those in the general population, while those with anxiety disorders were more than 3.5 times more likely to have suffered domestic abuse. The extra risk grew to seven times more likely among those with post-traumatic stress disorder.


An analysis of more than 1 million Scandinavian women has shown that taking SSRIs during pregnancy may not increase the risk of stillbirth. This study could help revolutionize treating depression in pregnant women.

“From our study, we don’t find any reason to stop taking your medication, because untreated depression may be harmful for the pregnancy and the baby,” [Dr. Olof Stephansson, the lead author of the new report] told Reuters Health.


Finally, “gender identity disorder” has been removed from the DSM-V and has been replaced by “gender dysphoria,” a condition in which people are concerned about their gender identity. “Gender identity disorder” seemed to stigmatize gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals. The continuing inclusion of “gender dysphoria,” however, ensures that people suffering with gender identity disorder still have access to health care treatment. (In my opinion, the renaming of “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria” is really a politically correct change. Homosexuality was removed from the DSM back in 1973.)

Anxiety. Depression. Suicidal Thoughts.

Anxiety. Depression. Suicidal thoughts. They are all rolled up in one.

I am anxious about a lot of things these days. From something as mundane as sitting here typing on the computer to driving to cold calling a prospective client (which may never pan out because I’m too anxious to call right now). My anxiety has been debilitating in the past where I didn’t want to leave my home, and I fear it’s getting to the point of debilitation again on some days.

My anxiety depresses me. It keeps me from doing things that no one would think twice about. But here I sit, a prisoner in my own body, freaking out about nearly everything. To escape this, combined with my severe lethargy, I crawl into bed and sleep, hoping that when I wake up, things will be better. But they usually are not.

Please don’t get me wrong. I have a life many people would envy: a loving husband, a supportive family, and a steady job. I am thankful for the good things in my life. But this attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness doesn’t take away the depression inside of me.

I do not want to go back to the hospital. If I fear anything worse than death, it may be going back to a psych hospital. I have passing suicidal thoughts about hanging myself, but I haven’t been able to act upon it. I can’t determine whether I am a harm to myself in which case I would need to go to the hospital. The point of the hospital (for me) is to get me away from things that would cause immediate harm to myself. But I can’t be locked up in a hospital forever. (I guess I could in a state institution but that would be a nightmare.)

Somehow, existing in this jumbled mix is me. Somewhere inside, I am bubbly, wonderfully wacky, and beautifully strange. The depression and anxiety fuzz all of that. I am only some of what I used to be. I go to sleep, hoping for some kind of reprieve from this dark cloud that hangs over me.

Don Cornelius Died . . . So What?

Image from washingtonpost.com

On February 1, 2012, Los Angeles police declared “Soul Train” legend Don Cornelius dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. As my Facebook feed filled up with R.I.P. Don Cornelius, I thought to myself, We’re not addressing the larger issue here: how he died.

It got me thinking about suicide rates among the black community. Suicide is something largely not spoken of among black people. No one likes to discuss suicide after someone’s self-inflicted death, but I think it’s important to address the issue. A study released in 2006 showed that each year 70,000 black people try to kill themselves and about 1.4 million or 4 percent attempt suicide at least once in their lives. From an article in the Associated Press:

While depression is strongly tied to suicidal behavior in whites, anxiety disorders were more common than depression in blacks who attempted suicide in the study. That is an important racial difference that could alert doctors to black patients who might be contemplating suicide, said [Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a Harvard University psychiatry professor and race relations specialist].

According to an article that appeared in the Journal of Black Psychology:

Historically, suicidal behaviors among African Americans received scant attention because of the belief that very few African Americans completed suicide; it was also assumed that they did not experience depression. Blacks were historically viewed as a psychologically unsophisticated race that were naturally high spirited and unburdened with a sense of responsibility.

Suicide rates among black men are growing. A 2007 statistic from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that of every 100,000 people ages 65 and older, 14.3 percent of them are likely to kill themselves. Mr. Cornelius was 75.

There’s no indication that Mr. Cornelius let anything on to family or friends. In a Washington Post article, Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Mr. Cornelius did not seem upset when they spoke a few days prior to Mr. Cornelius’s death. Police say that Mr. Cornelius left no suicide note and are investigating his mental state. They have ruled out a homicide.

A quick snapshot toward the end of Mr. Cornelius’s life shows that he had serious health issues and may have endured a bitter divorce with his second wife. This information doesn’t provide definitive proof that Mr. Cornelius was contemplating suicide, however, it may give us a peek at what may have contributed to his suicide.

Significant health issues are often overlooked in regard to a person’s mental state. Sometimes, a person won’t let on how much pain he or she may be in even though the pain may be unbearable. Mr. Cornelius may have been very lonely and in a lot of physical pain. Those two factors combined may have led him to take his life. But I am speculating—no one knows that for sure.

People will wonder how this unfortunate act could have been prevented. Unfortunately, it couldn’t. Mr. Cornelius did not tell anyone that he was depressed (as far as the media and police know), suffering, or contemplating taking his life. Generally, people most determined to take their own lives will not speak of it to anyone.

But there is a lesson to be learned here. We can encourage people of all races to speak to someone when life gets to be overwhelming and too burdensome. We don’t need anyone else who is blessed with gifts and talents to commit suicide because he or she feels as though no one will listen and no one cares. 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-SUICIDE are good resources with people who will listen and genuinely care. May we all learn from Mr. Cornelius’s lesson and get help when we truly need it.

My Dark Passenger: The Suicide Side

Image from zazzle.com

Although I’m not a fan of the Dexter books or TV series, I’ve been introduced to both by way of my husband who enjoys both forms of Dexter media.

The other day I flipped through Jeff Lindsay’s latest, Dexter Is Delicious, and read a little bit about the part of Dexter that he calls his “Dark Passenger,” the voice inside of him that compels him to kill. (But he justifies this by killing murderers. An interesting twist on the anti-hero.)

I ruminated on this as I’ve been dealing with a lot of suicidal thoughts lately. And really, there’s nothing wrong in my life that would cause these suicidal thoughts to arise. It’s just something in me gone haywire. It’s like a part of me that’s not really a part of me that I can kind of talk back to. It sounds otherworldly and crazy.

It is.

So I’ve taken to calling the suicidal voice (unlike Dexter’s homicidal one) in my head the “Dark Passenger.” My husband kind of likes this too as it identifies something that’s not really me although it’s a part of me.

The Dark Passenger is pretty random these days. Even if I have a slight mood crash, he’ll—because my sinister voice is clearly not a seductive she, maybe androgynous—tell me that life is not worth living and to go kill myself.

Me: What?
Dark Passenger: Go kill yourself. Life isn’t worth living anyway. You’re a total failure and you know you can’t do anything right.
Me: Um, why are you bugging me? I’m not even depressed right now.
Dark Passenger: [silence]

Yeah, that’s pretty much how our conversations go. It probably sounds a bit schizophrenic or something but that’s basically my stupid battle to stay alive. You can probably imagine how terrible our conversations are when I am depressed.

My Dark Passenger’s a bit starved, you see, because I haven’t tried to kill myself in a while and he’s getting antsy. I was last hospitalized for a suicide attempt in 2006 and even though I’ve had a few half-hearted attempts since or serious thoughts about an attempt, I haven’t had a serious attempt that has required me to be locked away for a good bit of time. I still get freaked out about my near-sexual assault encounter and that’s done a good job of keeping me in check for now.

So the Dark Passenger tries to get me whenever he thinks he’s got an opening:

No one signed up for your class. You’re a loser. Go kill yourself.

She never called you back. See? No one likes you. Go kill yourself.

You can’t get pregnant or do anything right. You’re not cut out to be a mother. In fact, you weren’t meant to be one because you need to go kill yourself.

And on and on and on. It’s easy to tell him to shut up when I’m not deeply depressed. Not so much otherwise.

Maybe there’s something to that “Get behind me, Satan” stuff after all. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a famous British preacher, once suggested in his book Spiritual Depression to “talk back” to one’s negative voices. While it doesn’t work in the most severe of cases for me, it works. . . for the most part.

National Suicide Survivors Day

Today is National Suicide Survivors Day. If you know someone who has struggled with suicide or has lost a loved one to suicide, please show them your love today or this coming week.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a 90-minute webcast featuring a panel of mental health professionals and suicide survivors. Here's a bit of background:

What is National Survivors of Suicide Day?

National Survivors of Suicide Day was created by U.S. Senate resolution, through the efforts of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who lost his father to suicide. Every year, AFSP sponsors an event to provide an opportunity for the survivor community to come together for support, healing, information and empowerment.

AFSP's National Survivors of Suicide Day links simultaneous survivor conferences throughout the country and internationally — each local conference site is organized independently, but they're all connected through a 90-minute broadcast. This unique network of healing conferences helps survivors connect with others who have survived the tragedy of suicide loss, and express and understand the powerful emotions they experience.

When is National Survivors of Suicide Day?

It's always the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The 11th annual conference will be held on Nov. 21, 2009. The broadcast runs from 1-2:30 p.m. EST. Some conference sites also choose to add local programming before and/or after the broadcast.

World Suicide Prevention Day

Commemorating World Suicide Prevention Day by living yet another day. There was a time when I didn’t want to live so this is a big accomplishment for me. Now, the script:

Learn more about suicide prevention and the warning signs of suicide through the “It’s On My Mind” page: http://www.facebook.com/itsonmymind.

Check out other World Suicide Prevention Day activities at http://www.iasp.info.

To learn more about mental health conditions and suicide, visit one of The Jed Foundation’s sites at http://www.jedfoundation.org, http://www.ulifeline.org or http://www.halfofus.com. You’ll find links to many other resources through these sites. If you or someone you know needs help immediately, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Me, my daughter and Sylvia Plath

Piggybacking on the sad story of Sylvia Plath's son's suicide, Christine Stapleton—a blogger at PsychCentral and columnist for the Palm Beach Postwrote something interesting that caught my attention addressing whether suicide can run in genes:

Suicide is not hereditary – at least geneticists have not proved it. However, studies have shown that  children whose mothers committed suicide are 7 times more likely to attempt suicide than children whose mothers do not. That statistic is why I am alive.

Maybe that statistic would help keep me alive too if I have kids.