KOLD INVESTIGATES: The darkness of depression and fight against teen suicide

KOLD INVESTIGATES: The darkness of depression and fight against teen suicide

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Every seven hours, someone in Arizona dies of suicide. Two out of three of those people has undiagnosed depression.

Teenage suicide continues to climb across the country, with the rate among young girls hitting a 40-year high.

KOLD News 13 spoke to 19-year-old Ivona about her struggle with depression. Ivona is a suicide attempt survivor who wanted to share her story to help others with the same struggle.

"I could smile and say I'm okay," Ivona said. "But you don't know what's going on in my head."

Imagine unstoppable pain. A war in your mind warps any hope for happiness, drowning your body in darkness.

"There are some mornings I'll wake up sad and not have an explanation why I'm sad," Ivona said.  "I was about maybe six. And it's scary to think at that age I was suicidal."

Ivona talked about her experience with clinical depression.

"I was tired of living," Ivona said. "I actually overdosed purposely on my medication for my ADHD. That was a really bad experience."

She said it drove her ultimate decision to end her life.

"At that time I felt hopelessness, that I didn't have any other decision but that," Ivona said.

Dr. John Leipsic is the Medical Director of Adolescent Impatient Services at Palo Verde Behavioral Health. He also works with Intermountain Centers in Tucson.

He said Ivona is one of so many young people dealing with this everyday danger of major depressive disorder.

"There's no doubt depression is the No. 1 cause of suicide," Dr. Leipsic said. "Especially adolescent suicide."

The condition changes chemicals in the brain, draining serotonin, a main mood stabilizer. This can also cause onset anxiety.

This all leads to what doctors call "cognitive distortion," which prevents the brain from thinking clearly.

For more information on major depressive disorder causes and symptoms, click HERE.

As the teenage brain develops, young people face an even higher risk.

"In adolescents, it's not really a fight between the head and the heart." Leipsic said. "The heart always wins because in adolescents the emotional part of the brain is pre-dominant."

Dr. Leipsic said the frontal lobe doesn't completely develop until a person hits his or her early 20s. This portion of the brain, located right behind the forehead, regulates rational thoughts.

Since children and teenagers don't have a fully functional frontal lobe, their emotional feelings overpower rational reasoning. When a young person experiences depression, this increases the chance of an impulsive act.

"There's a five-minute gap between when a person decides they want to kill themselves and when they begin to carry it out," Leipsic said. "In adolescents, they are not able to see it through frequently, that five minutes. They're impulsive and they act in the moment."

Stress, genetics and life experiences are all common triggers for major depressive disorder.

"The state of mental pain is so extreme the person thinks death would be a welcome release or escape from that moment of pain," Dr. Leipsick said.

For every two homicides in the United States, three people die by suicide.

In Arizona, suicide is the No. 1 cause of death for kids between 10 and 14 years old.

For more Arizona suicide statistics click HERE.

For more national statistics, visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Dr. Noshene Ranjibar is an Assistant Professor and Psychiatry Director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic and Integrative Psychiatry Clinic at The University of Arizona.

She said early education and awareness can help kids manage their coping skills.

"My hope and goal is that we can get more training and more skills building in the homes and school systems early on," Dr. Ranjibar said. "This can include aspects of breathing, mindfulness, moving, teaching them about nutrition. All aspects of building blocks that can actually help them feel healthier and less likely to go down the deep end of isolation and hopelessness.

"It's really to normalize the human struggles and teach children early on how to express and ask for help."

Drs. Ranjibar and Leipsic said support from friends and family can raise awareness and encourage anyone to seek treatment.

"We may see one out of five of the kids that need help," Dr. Leipsic said. "But that means there's four out of five kids out there that are not getting help that need it. Depression is real and if you're depressed that it's important to get help."

This can help anyone fight towards the future and hold onto hope.

"It definitely is something that takes a long time to work out and it's not something you can do on your own," Ivona said. "It's worth it. It's worth living for. It's hard right now but that doesn't mean it's going to be hard later."

If you are struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, help is available.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Intermountain Crisis Hotline at 520-360-6621.

Use the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

For other tips to help in a crisis situation visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or https://www.crisistextline.org/.

For help in Tucson, visit the Intermountain Centers website or the Palo Verde Behavioral Health website.

The "Out of the Darkness" Walk also takes place in Tucson Saturday, October 14. This will raise awareness and funds to fight mental illness and suicide. For more information visit their website: http://bit.ly/2i4QxdD

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