Tracy Latz, M.D., M.S. is an Integrative Psychiatrist, Metaphysician, and Holistic Healer trained in Reiki, Color and Sound Healing, Medical Qigong, and Multidimensional Healing. She holds an undergraduate degree in Cell Biology for Wake Forest University and a Masters Degree in ImmunoBiology from Georgetown University. She has trained in Western Medicine at Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University, in the Ancient Mystery tradition at Delphi University and in three different Qigong traditions. She is also an ordained minister and enjoys assisting others with understanding the depth of who they truly are.
An Integrative Psychiatrist’s Response to Questions About Depression, Anxiety and Suicide
We do tend to see an increase in depression with financial strain, acute or chronic stress reactions (exposure to trauma or overwhelming stress), marital strain, loss (job, loved ones through death/moving/separation/ divorce), debilitating physical illness, hormonal imbalances (sexual hormones or thyroid hormones), time of year (seasonal depression – with change in length of daylight hours or with anniversaries of traumatic dates), overuse of alcohol/ opiates/other illicit substances, or certain medications. Over the years I have been asked the following questions by patients, colleagues, journalists and friends. I thought I would share them with you all in the hopes that it might be helpful to someone you know. Most of the questions follow after well-known people have either committed suicide or admit to severe depression – or have to do with stress due to many acute stress reactions and chronic stressors as well. Depression and suicide are hard topics for many to discuss due to feeling so alone. You are not alone.
1. Have you seen an increase in cases of stress, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts in your practice due specifically to work-related stress, financial crises, job loss, or politics in the world?
I have seen an increase in cases of stress, anxiety, and depression as a result of the financial strain in both adults and children (as they pick up on their parents’ fears, anxiety and sadness). I have had some people reporting suicidal thoughts as a result of their perception of doom, guilt and shame over their financial dilemmas or getting too involved in anxiety over world affairs or national politics. I have had children, adolescents and college students report suicidal thoughts after perceived or real academic failure, being the victim of bullying, or in the midst of a relationship breakup. I also have seen people become increasingly isolated as they invest more time in online ‘etheric’ relationships and activities rather than spending real face-to-face time with friends, family or loved ones.
2. What is your major advice to those cases?
As an Integrative Psychiatrist, I usually see people once they have decided to seek counseling or an evaluation from me. If I meet someone who is not presenting to me clinically who appears severely anxious or depressed, I encourage them to see out a trusted loved one to talk to as well as a counselor or therapist who has been trained in assisting a person with navigating through a crisis. I focus on changing perceptions of recent events for these people who present in crisis. I suggest that people stop listening to the news or to stay off social media except for a brief period once a day if this is where the stress is coming from (in the case of cyber-bullying or stress from the political climate or national/world events) so that they do not have continual triggers or stimulation of their worst fears. I encourage children to talk to a parent or trusted adult and their teachers about academic stress or bullying issues so that it can be addressed. I reassure children and adults alike that this is just a moment in time and that everything with regard to relationships or the political or financial states will predictably change over time; that the stock market and financial downtrends will gradually improve with time and that politics shifts with each new election in this country. I tell them it is much like watching clouds floating by in the sky- there is a beginning, a middle and an end to any major crisis no matter what it is and that the sun will come out again with time.
For people that fear loss of retirement or college fund monies yet who have no intention of retiring or children leaving for college for 5 or more years, I point out that the loss of money for them is either only on paper or in the ethers of the computer databases as their wealth will begin to grow again with time. I assist people with taking a look at their priorities and realizing that there are so many things that are more important than possessions and perceived status of cars, jobs, houses… such as family, relationships, and health. For those who truly seem to be on the edge of personal financial collapse, I have spoken with some who are truly in dire financial circumstances about seeking assistance from agencies considering bankruptcy, which was developed specifically to give someone a chance to start over financially. There are many grants and scholarships available to help students pay for education. There are even programs such AmeriCorp where high school graduates can work for a year or two and be paid in the form of college monies.
Many people have a fear about asking friends, family or loved ones about whether or not they are having thoughts of suicide or feel like life is no longer worth living. There is a myth that asking someone about suicidal thoughts will make them think about suicide. Trust me – if someone is severely depressed, in a mixed manic state, and even some with severe overwhelming anxiety, they have already had the thought run through their mind and you are not going to make them think “Wow! What a great idea! I should have thought of that as an option!” Most suicidal people actually report a sense of relief that they can talk about it – as the topic is seen as taboo and there is often fear, guilt and shame about having such thoughts. I have had some people who think of suicide as an option to get life insurance monies for their family. I point out that many life insurance policies have an exclusion of payment for anyone who commits suicide. Some people believe that suicide is a “way out” and that their “troubles will end”- to those people I say that suicide creates a whole list of new troubles for the ones who are left behind to pick up the pieces. Risk of suicide increases dramatically once another family member has taken their own life; suicide then becomes seen as a viable option for dealing with problems. In my experience, children, friends, and loved ones almost always blame them selves for the person’s death, even if a suicide note is left. No one and nothing is ever worth taking your life over. The sun will indeed come out again if we can just breathe and take a moment to get out of our mind chatter, get into our heart and see the big picture.
I recommend that people who are dealing with stressful situations be mindful of getting regular sleep, taking care of their body with good nutrition and some regular exercise. Exercise is a means of natural stress reduction and helps reset neurotransmitters to assist with combatting anxiety and depression. Taking time to take care of our own self to relax and play is important all of the time, not just during crisis situations.
3. What do you recommend to people that are living in such stress situations that have suicidal thoughts? How can they deal with those thoughts?
It is important to talk with someone about what/how you are thinking and what you are feeling such as trained mental health professionals (therapists, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers), your pastor/rabbi/priest, your family physician, or family and/or friends. You are not alone. There is support available. There are suicide hotlines (Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 )with counselors available 24 hours a day. You can present to an emergency room at any hospital any hour of the day or night. There is help available in the form of psychotherapy, support groups, and antidepressant medication that can work fairly rapidly to improve mood.
4. Is there a way of preventing suicidal thoughts when people are depressed, or very stressed?
Perception and where you focus your thoughts are of key importance. We can look at everything as if the glass is half empty constantly or we can choose to look at things as if the glass is half full. We energize what we think about – if we are always looking for the worst case scenario, then that is all we can see and we will have difficulty seeing the things that are still beautiful and wonderful in our life. Exercise, spending time with real people (rather than isolating our self spending hours online) and doing things that we love are helpful with keeping us focused on what is positive and joyful in our lives. Antidepressant medication and/or mood stabilizing medication can help a great deal for those who seem to remain depressed in their mood for 2 or more weeks without relief. Hospitalization is an option for those who do not feel that they are able to keep them self from acting on suicidal thoughts.
It is hard to be aware of the Light when we are at the bottom of a deep, dark and seemingly endless hole. However, I have found that a person – no matter how hopeless in a given moment- can indeed be aware that the sun is rising once again if they allow a bit of support from others and ask for help…. from family, friends, counselors, clergy, mental health workers, clinical social workers, therapists, physicians, psychologists or psychiatrists. There IS help available and you will not feel this way forever. You are not abandoned as long as you do not abandon your self. You are Loved and Lovable at every moment.
Loads of Light to all who are reading this-
Tracy Latz, M.D. (The Shift Doctor)