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Australian Bureau of Statistics reported 15 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women who suicided had ‘an associated or contributory diagnosis of a mental disorder’ (ABS, 2000). At Exit we argue that feelings of sadness (as opposed to clinical depression) are a normal response to a diagnosis of a serious illness.
This is why some studies continue to find a sadness associated with a serious illness. You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to understand that this might be a normal response to an extraordinary situation (Ryan, 1996). To assume that suicide amongst the elderly or people who are seriously ill is the result of depression or other psychiatric illness, is to adopt uncritically a biomedical way of seeing the world. We can do better.
Suicide & Depression
The link between suicide and depression remains a vexed issue with millions of dollars in government funding devoted to raising the community’s awareness of suicide, especially amongst the young and some minority groups (eg. farmers). And there can be no doubt. People who suffer from clinical depression are clearly at risk of suicide. Severe depressive states can rob a person of the ability to make rational decisions and these people need care and treatment until they are once again able to resume control. Yet illness of this severity is not common and needs to be distinguished from a larger group of people who show occasional signs of depression but who are in full control of their actions.