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Depression and Suicidality


By Luke Dalfiume, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Co-Owner
John R. Day & Associates, Christian Psychological Associates

Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Each year about 6.7 percent of U.S adults experience major depressive disorder. Women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime. The average age of onset is 32 years old. Additionally, 3.3 percent of 13-to 18-year-olds have experienced a seriously debilitating depressive disorder. Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44.

Genetic factors (what we inherit from our biological parents) account for about one-third of the predisposition toward depression. Environmental factors account for about two-thirds of the predisposition toward depression. Common factors contributing to depression include early life trauma, child abuse and neglect, the experience of later traumatic events, and poverty.

The median duration of a depressive episode is 6 months. The likelihood of remaining depressed for many years is high (30 percent are still depressed after one year, 20 percent after two years, 12 percent after five years, 8 percent after 10 years, 6 percent after 15 years, and 4 percent after 30 years). 

The risk of recurrence after recovery is extremely high (36 percent after one year following recovery, 40 percent after two years, 60 percent after five years, 65 percent after 10 years, 85 percent after 15 years, and greater than 90 percent after 30 years).

Each time a person has a depressive episode, they are more likely to become depressed again.

Even for those who recover from depression, a number continue to have symptoms of depression (though they do not have sufficient symptoms for a diagnosis of depression). For example, a number of patients have psychosocial problems, with impairments in social relationships, the ability to work or do school, or they continue to have significant internal turmoil.

Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depressive disorders or substance abuse. About 50 percent of those with major depressive disorder also have a significant anxiety disorder. (NIMH)

The following are symptoms of a Major Depressive Episode, according the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition.
Five or more of the following 9 symptoms in a 2-week period:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, either by subjective report or observation.
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (a change in body weight of 5 percent or more in a month or less).
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much) nearly every day.
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a specific plan or history of attempt.

Many people who are depressed will have some suicidal ideation (thoughts). However, this does not mean they are a high risk for completing suicide. If you think someone may be suicidal, ask them. Asking a depressed person will not increase their risk for suicide. If they say they are suicidal, then take them to a hospital emergency room to be assessed by a professional, or call the Emergency Response Service. In Peoria County, the number is 309-671-8084; in Tazewell and Woodford Counties, it is 309-347-1148.

To assess for suicide risk, a professional assesses for, among other things, the following:

  • Thoughts: is the person thinking of harming herself?
  • Plans: does she have a specific plan for harming herself?
  • Means: does she have a way to carry out that plan?
  • Intent: is she a high risk for carrying out the plan?

Are you struggling with depression or thinking of suicide, or know someone who is? We can help. Contact John R. Day & Associates, Christian Psychological Associates, located at 3716 West Brighton Avenue, Peoria at or their locations in Normal, Canton, Pekin, Princeton, or Eureka. Call us at 309-692-7755 or visit us online:

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