Canadian study shows light at the end of the tunnel for those in depths of despair

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      Even though there’s never been more awareness surrounding mental illness or support for those who struggle with it, more than a quarter of a million Canadian youth—6.5 percent of people between 15 and 24—experience major depression each year, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.  In 2014, suicide was the second leading cause of death globally among 15- to 29-year-olds, the World Health Organization reported.

      There’s hopeful news, though: 38 percent of formerly suicidal Canadians have reached a state of complete mental health. They not only become free of symptoms of mental illness, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse in the preceding year, but also report almost daily happiness or life satisfaction and social and psychological well-being, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto being published online in the next issue of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior.

      This finding is in keeping with a large body of research that shows that individuals with greater social support and who have someone they can count on are less likely to suffer psychological distress and other mental illness. Other factors associated with achieving complete mental health among formerly suicidal respondents include being older, being a woman, having higher income, and the use of spirituality to cope.

      Those with chronic pain, insomnia, or a history of alcohol dependency were less likely to be in complete mental health.

      "We found that among formerly suicidal individuals, those who have someone they could confide in were seven times more likely to have complete mental health, after adjusting for potential confounders" lead author Philip Baiden, a PhD Student at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work said in a news release.

      The researchers examined data from a representative sample of 2,884 formerly suicidal adults from Statistics Canada's 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health.

      According to HeretoHelp, a project of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information, signs of depression include:

      • feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness

      • sleeping more or less than usual

      • eating more or less than usual

      • trouble concentrating or making decisions

      • loss of interest in activities

      • less desire for sex

      • avoidance of others

      • overwhelming feelings of sadness or grief

      • feeling more tearful or irritable than usual

      "Our findings provide a hopeful message for those in the depths of despair and their loved ones,” said coauthor Esme Fuller-Thomson, interim director of the Institute for Life Course and Aging. “Long-term recovery goals should be not limited to mere remission from suicidal thoughts. A large minority of suicidal individuals can achieve a high level of happiness and complete mental health. There is a promising light at the end of the tunnel.”