In an attempt to alleviate symptoms of a mental illness or disorder, those with a dual diagnosis tend to have a connection to suicide, both in attempts and actual execution.
Suicide is the act of killing oneself intentionally. Dual diagnosis is the co-occurrence of two diagnosable disorders as defined by the DSM-IV, generally addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs and a mental illness. How are the two connected?
For example, a man diagnosed with depression and alcohol abuse or dependence is at an extremely high risk rate for suicidal ideation and follow through. The effects of alcohol perpetuate the symptoms of depression, which leads to feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and potential suicidality.
Another example: a woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder experiences intense mood swings. She is depressed and hopeless one day, not wanting to move or do anything at all, and the next day she is full of energy and grand ideas. She is most at risk for suicidal ideations when she has had energy and is inevitably coming back down to the depressed side . The uncertainty of her mood ups and downs with very little time spent somewhere in between the two extremes means the woman is constantly torn between the impulsivity of the manic episodes and the debilitating despair of the depressive states.
Suicide And Dual Diagnosis
When alcohol or drugs are added to her equation, the attempt at self-medication fails when she is left feeling distorted, isolated, or overstimulated. Bringing an end to the suffering can sometimes seem like her best choice.
The major thing to remember is that a mental illness is an imbalance in brain chemistry that leads to a difference in thought processing and behavioral choices. Alcohol and drugs also alter the chemical balance in the body and the brain of its users. The combination, especially when left untreated, can lead many with co-occurring disorders to feel that life is too hard to maneuver, and suicide is an actual seemingly helpful option.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, about 44 million people experience a mental disorder every year, and of that, about 8.9 million are dually diagnosed with a mental illness and substance abuse or dependence. Only 7.4% of those people are treated appropriately, which unfortunately makes the high risk of suicide connected to a dual diagnosis understandable.
Listen to Matt discuss the mental health treatment he received at Sov Cal.