|Wake of the retired general Angelo Reyes|
Depression and Suicide
On February 8, 2011 the whole Philippines was stunned by the sudden death of the retired General Angelo T. Reyes. He committed suicide in front of his mother’s tomb by shooting himself on the chest. His death brought an end to a political career marked with controversy, culminating in a corruption scandal that involved at least 3 former military chiefs during the Arroyo administration. He was 65 y.o.
What could have prompted Reyes to end his life? I had the impression of him being tough. He was never seen smiled in public.
First of all, who was Gen. Angelo Reyes? Angelo Reyes was born to a family of teachers. He exhibited excellence in academics by graduating a valedictorian in high school and 7th in his class in the Philippine Military Academy. He became a decorated military officer. He was appointed as Chief of Staff during Estrada administration in 1999, but gained national attention with his role in the EDSA 2 revolution, thus gaining the favor of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He continued to occupy the post of Chief of Staff until 2001, after which he was appointed to various cabinet posts: Secretary of Department of National Defense (2001-2003), Secretary of Department of Interior and Local Government (2004-2006), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (2006-2007), and Department of Energy (2007-2010). His political career ended together with the end of Gloria Arroyo’s presidency. His bid to run for Congress failed due to disqualification case filed against him.
Two weeks ago in lieu of the accusation by his former military budget officer George Rabusa of him pocketing P50 million in military funds upon his retirement as AFP chief in 2001, he was summoned to the senate to testify. After the hearing he admitted on interviews that he was hurt by the harsh interrogation and insults hurled at him in the senate. He was publicly humiliated. Senate inquiries, especially on controversial issues are broadcasted live on national TV. His wife recounted how she saw the agony on his face when he came home on that day. According to his lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan, Reyes appeared disturbed and had lost some weight after the said incident. Few days before his death, as if imparting a farewell message he told his wife and children to be strong and to take care of each other. Experts said, those were the signs of depression.
So what is depression?
Depression is more than sadness or blues that we experience in our day to day lives. Some describes it as a ‘black-hole or a feeling of impending doom. It is a sadness that doesn’t disappear. It engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting, with little, if any, relief.
Major depression is a disease that impacts approximately 5% of people globally. In 2004, Americans were found to be the most depressed population
Physiology of depression
For three decades scientists have attributed a chemical imbalance in the brain as the source of major depression. Mood-related chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine– are low in the brain during major depressive episodes. In a study by Dr. Jeffrey Meyer results showed that brain monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) — an enzyme that breaks down chemicals like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine– was higher in those with untreated depression. On average, MAO-A was 34% higher. Having more MAO-A leads to greater breakdown of key chemicals like serotonin.”
Depression is also being linked to Some structural abnormalities in the amygdala, basal ganglia and prefrontal cortex.
PET (Positron Emission Topography) and SPECT (Single Proton Emission Computed Topography) scans are two types of brain scans which show how active or inactive the different areas of the brain are. PET scans of depressed brains compared to normal ones show a significant reduction in overall brain activity. This is why everything seems ten times harder when you're depressed and why it's much harder to concentrate and remember things.
|PET scans of depressed and normal brains|
Causes and Risk factors of Depression
- Lack of social support
- Recent stressful life experiences
- Family history of depression
- Marital or relationship problems
- Financial strain
- Early childhood trauma or abuse
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Unemployment or underemployment
- Health problems or chronic pain
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
- Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
- Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month
- Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
- Irritability or restlessness. Feeling agitated, restless, or on edge. Your tolerance level is low; everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
- Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
- Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
- Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
Depression and Suicide
Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. The deep despair and hopelessness that goes along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain. Thoughts of death or suicide are a serious symptom of depression, so take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It's not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide: it's a cry for help.
Warning Signs of Suicide include:
- Talking about killing or harming one’s self
- Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
- An unusual preoccupation with death or dying
- Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights)
- Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
- Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
- Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out.”
- A sudden switch from being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy.
Treatment of Depression
Treatment of depression varies on each individual. No one treatment is appropriate in each cases. The underlying cause of depression must first be established to overcome the problem. In most cases, the best approach involves a combination of social support, lifestyle changes, emotional skills building, and professional help.
How can you help a friend or relative who is depressed?
The first and most important thing you can do to help a friend or relative who has depression is to help him or her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. You may need to make an appointment on behalf of your friend or relative and go with him or her to see the doctor. Encourage him or her to stay in treatment, or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs after six to eight weeks.
To help a friend or relative:
- Offer emotional support, understanding, patience and encouragement.
- Engage your friend or relative in conversation, and listen carefully.
- Never disparage feelings your friend or relative expresses, but point out realities and offer hope.
- Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your friend's or relative's therapist or doctor.
- Invite your friend or relative out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don't push him or her to take on too much too soon. Although diversions and company are needed, too many demands may increase feelings of failure.
- Remind your friend or relative that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.
If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless and hopeless. It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But it is important to realize that these feelings are part of the depression and do not accurately reflect actual circumstances. As you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, negative thinking will fade.
To help yourself:
- Engage in mild activity or exercise. Go to a movie, a ballgame, or another event or activity that you once enjoyed. Participate in religious, social or other activities.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
- Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly "snap out of" your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood lifts.
- Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
Gen. Angelo Reyes, an honorable man
Gen. Angelo Reyes, an honorable man