The American Suicide Epidemic - Pt. II

In our last blog, we discussed the remarkable fact that, although prescriptions for antidepressants have increased 65% over the last fifteen years, we have also seen an unprecedented two-decade increase in the number of people committing suicide.  With the high profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this week, it is hoped that more attention will be given to this troubling crisis, resulting in better ways to address the American depression epidemic. In our second blog on the topic, we not only explore Chinese medical options for treating depression and preventing suicide but also touch upon some of the underlying factors that may be contributing to the shocking number of people annually who take their own lives here in the U.S.

Studies have shown that, while the rates of depression are typically low in the developing world, people from those countries who then migrate to the United States will, within 7 years, be as likely to be depressed at the rest of us.  This information demonstrates that depression, and suicide, involve not only our own personal health but also reflect the wellness of an entire society.  Despite our high standard of living, life in America today takes a toll on our mental and emotional balance.  Burdened by massive debt, overwhelmed with the flood of information (much of it negative), and often lacking the fundamental support of a solid family structure, it is challenging to stay positive and mentally and emotionally healthy.

Due to the possibility of suicide, any discussion of CAM care for depression must begin with a reminder of how high the stakes are and how important it is to have a Western healthcare professional on the team.  Access to fast-acting medications and the ability to deliver 24/7 care can prevent suicide and save lives.  Without the right sort of oversight and treatment, depression can spiral out of control and transform into a fatal event mercilessly fast.

To the team effort of helping those with depression live better quality lives, Chinese medicine offers both an understanding of unipolar depression and supportive care.  From our TCM perspective, the disease of emotional depression always arises from the pattern of binding depression of liver qi.  In binding depression of liver qi, the global qi of the system is stagnant and depressed, necessitating treatments and self-care which facilitate qi movement.  In the clinic, this translates into the use of acupuncture points to course the liver and acrid, aromatic formulas to move qi and lift the spirit.

For self-care, the Chinese medicine practitioner will recommend regular, moderate exercise to get the qi moving.  This idea is also corroborated by scientific studies that have shown how physical activity can improve mood.  Of course, nutritious food, adequate relaxation, and social interaction can assist in maintaining a good, healthy, and balanced flow of qi.  Even medicinal incense, which delivers an acrid aroma to stir the mind, may be recommended to raise a patient suffering from depression to a more joyful and active emotional state.  Please speak with an experienced, licensed TCM health professional for guidance with these self-care methods and additional ideas about how to get more out of your life