Really?? Can Inflammation Cause Suicide…? Or Suicidal Thoughts?
Maybe you’ve just reached the end of your rope. The long dark days, the despair of watching everything always go wrong, the deterioration of your relationships, the exhaustion and inability to think well enough to do your job…and that feeling that you despise yourself. Loss of self-respect was the final straw.
It all culminates in a dark, rumbling thunder cloud in your mind. And every day you wake up you feel angry that you’re still alive. You prayed last night that you wouldn’t wake up, that you’d finally be released from this horrid existence.
Depression can come for lots of reasons, or it can come for no reason at all. If you’ve endured the long dark halls of major depression, tried one medication after another and have never gotten better … if you’ve worked with more than one psychiatrist without any benefit…
Maybe you’ve just reached the end of your rope.
Where Does Suicidal Thinking Come From?
Do you ever wonder why you sometimes feel like you want to stop living when you’re depressed? Why some people never have a thought like that…but you do? What causes suicidal thinking anyway?
We’ve all assumed it was just the way one person responds to terrible, heart-breaking depression versus another. That people are different and respond to things differently.
New Discovery About Suicidal Thinking
But, there’s some new information about major depression, and especially the suicidal thinking that sometimes goes with it. Researchers in the UK have discovered a link between inflammation in the brain and the presence of suicidal thinking and intent.
Dr. Peter Talbot and his team at the University of Manchester found that there is a marker that’s increased in the brain of depressed patients who were contemplating suicide. It turns out this microglial activation marker is a sign of inflammation, and was only elevated in depressed patients with suicidal thoughts — not in depressed patients who weren’t suicidal.
They found the most dramatic elevation in the anterior cingulate cortex through brain imaging. This part of the brain is where mood regulation happens, and many of us think it could be the focal point where depression starts.
In the past, the closest researchers had come to detecting this connection was by studying tissue samples from deceased patients. But this is the first time that elevations of this microglial marker have been identified in severely depressed patients who were alive and able to talk about the severity and the torment of their suicidal thoughts. And this inflammatory marker is specifically a marker for suicidal thinking in depression — not for depression itself.
So Now What?
Now, you may wonder … so what? What we can do with this information??
Well, for one thing it helps a lot to think that in some cases, specifically those depressed patients who are thinking about suicide, we might be able to find anti-inflammatory treatments that may actually help their suicidal thinking.
Does this mean we’ll start prescribing two Advil for suicidal patients, with instructions to call us in the morning….?
No. Of course not.
Still, this is a first step along the path of research to help us provide more individualized and personalized care for our patients.
… It may turn out that … targeting inflammatory pathways and the release of inflammatory factors in the brain — on the other side of the blood-brain barrier — may help to manage suicidal thoughts in depressed patients … It may turn out that bioavailable curcumin, a potent natural anti-inflammatory that easily crosses into the brain, will become an even more critical supplement for us to study and to offer to our patients who are depressed … and suicidal.
Long story short, the human brain is medicine’s last frontier.
The complexities of the neurons, their connections, the vast array of chemical reactions that lead to signals that zoom around to create your feelings of love, joy, anger, sorrow – and depression – and the physical structures that determine your cognition and your mood, are the focus of extensive research among neuroscientists around the world.
The more we learn through the research of neuroscientists, the clearer our path can become treating certain patients. Because it all comes down to the fact that no two brains are alike. We’re each unique, and the response of our brains and personalities to our individual circumstances and genetic makeup varies.
So, for those patients who are deeply depressed and are thinking about ending their lives … following the path of investigating their level of brain cell inflammation may soon be a viable part of an overall treatment plan.
At the same time, as a result of explosive research, we’ve found that ketamine treatment has an extraordinary effect on suicidal thinking. And… we can treat that in those with treatment-resistant depression right now.
We know, and have seen in hundreds of cases, that IV ketamine stops suicidal thinking in 80% of treatment-resistant suicidal patients. And it can do it within 4 hours — and often in just the first hour. For most people who suffer from severe depression and torturous suicidal thinking, IV ketamine is a treatment that can give them emergency relief. It will allow them to just go home … have dinner … go to bed like anyone else … and wake up refreshed. And alive.
And for many, it will continue to help them feel better, think more clearly, and process their emotions. In fact, process them so well that they can invest in therapy to change the way they respond to life’s events and build a healthy, better life for the long term.
For that 20% who aren’t helped by ketamine, it’s great news that research is breaking through more mysteries. Because treating suicidal struggles in depressed patients is a life or death matter.
If you can relate to this concept of suicidal thinking, and if your thoughts head in this direction at times, call us. We can arrange an appointment to discuss whether you’re a candidate for ketamine treatment.
We can help you get your life on the path you want it to be.
To the restoration and health of your best self,
Lori Calabrese, M.D.