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Making Inroads to Prevent Suicides

Severe depression has long been known to be a risk factor for suicide, with common symptoms including a feeling of hopelessness, a recent significant change or loss in one's life, or isolation from others. However, not all depressive states are the same.

The results of a study recently presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology's annual meeting in Amsterdam expanded upon the warning signs for possible suicide attempts. Not all people who suffer from depression exhibit the same effects.

Some who are depressed may also experience bouts of anxiety or agitation, engage in risky behaviors, or act on impulse wihtout regard for consequences prior to a suicide attempt. For these people- who experience "mixed depressive states"- the risk of suicide was found to be as much as 50 percent higher, according to study results.

Mixed depressive symptoms may sometimes be indicative of bipolar depression (manic depressive disorder). Bipolar patients are at an elevated risk of suicide, compared to those with non-bipolar depression, even when not in a mixed state.

An accurate assessment of a patient's condition is critical. Most symptoms will not be spontaneously brought up by the patient; clinicians have to dig and inquire directly. More in-depth information can alert caregivers to the added risk involved with patients.

Medicinal treatment regimens may have to be revamped- antidepressants can actually heighten the risk of suicide for those who are bipolar.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide every year; 20 times that number attempt it. Improved recognition and treatment methods are crucial to reducing those numbers.

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