The world recognizes National suicide Prevention Awareness in the month of September. Mental health experts have delved deeper into the important roles of genetics and brain biology when it comes to depression and suicide and they noted the impacts of the social stigma and awareness associated with it.

During the annual Suicide Awareness and Prevention Conference held at the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital on September 9, Verdugo Boulevard facility chief executive Keith Hobbs stressed that suicide is a significant social issue.

The second annual conference's theme is “Shattering the Silence,” and it presented some effective ways to support people suffering from clinical depression.

Social and biologic factors

One of the speakers during the six-hour conference was Dr. Victoria Arango, a neurobiology professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Arango, who studied brain neurotransmitter changes in people who died by committing suicide, highlighted that biology should not be ignored in suicide studies.

Arango also spoke about the role of the suicidal gene, saying an individual can be vulnerable if there’s a “family history of suicide,” Los Angeles Times noted. She added that suicidal vulnerability could be similar to having a history of cardiovascular disease.

Arango’s findings were also supported by USC Verdugo’s Stepping Stones program clinical program director and conference organizer Luke Jackson. Jackson explained that social-biological factors should also be considered since there’s “evidence” that suggests suicidal inclinations as a disease,

Jackson said the loss of neurons could lead to the brain’s incapability of protecting itself. West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board member, Robert Gamboa, explained the role of sexual identity and gender in mental health issues such as suicide and depression.

National crisis

In the United States, suicide is considered a national crisis because it is the 10th leading cause of death among adults. It ranks second among children aged 10 - 14-years old. It is the third highest among those belonging to the 15 - 24 age bracket, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted. The most common mental health illness associated with suicide is Clinical Depression.

The burgeoning cases of suicide, however, are linked to several factors.

According to Herald Tribune, factors that led to the escalation of suicidal cases range from opioid use epidemic, easy access to firearms, social media influence, distress over personal and economic struggles, and political divisiveness. However, the publication stressed that the biggest factor could be the lack of comprehensive mental health services and disjointed health care system.

Pain and stigma

Even though clinical depression has taken many lives through suicide, many people do realize that ending one’s life is never a solution.

It is already a known fact that the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses never cease to exist.

It's lingering existence is the main reason why many people hesitate to seek professional help. For survivors, suicide prevention is a “daily mission,” and it is important to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around it, Huffington Post reported.

Apart from the stigma, pain is also a contributing factor to most mental health cases. In fact, those who are filled with grief are likely vulnerable and more at risk for suicide.

To prevent such tragedies, experts revealed some warning signs (apart from a history of depression). These include reckless actions, increased substance abuse, withdrawal from friends and family, too little or too much sleep, and talking about suicide or being a burden to other people.

For those seeking help, they can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24/7. All calls are treated with confidentiality and the service is available to anyone.

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