It is important to know that there is a high rate of depression, attempted suicide and suicide among both problem gamblers and members of their family. Although depression and suicide are often related, not all depressed people are suicidal and not all suicidal people are depressed.

However, the symptoms of depression may provide some ways of recognizing a person at risk.

WHEN PEOPLE ARE DEPRESSED, THEY OFTEN EXPERIENCE:

• negative feelings about themselves;

• sadness or apathy (especially prolonged);

• a tendency to blame themselves;

• loss or increase of appetite (significant changes in weight);

• changes in sleep patterns;

• constant fatigue;

• chronic but unexplained aches and pains;

• loss of interest in life;

• an inability to make decisions; or

• an inability to analyze and solve problems.

A PERSON’S BEHAVIOUR MAY CHANGE IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS:

• increasing alcohol or other drug use;

• changing their pattern of work attendance;

• showing major changes in work performance;

• taking risks, involving themselves in dangerous undertakings;

• fighting with family, friends or co-workers;

• changing their level of activity (restlessness to boredom); or

• having more accidents.

Although individual motives for suicide vary, there are some common warning signs. Suicides seldom occur without warning. If you are aware of common signs and changes in behaviour, you can recognize and better help a person in crisis. These signs represent behaviours that can serve as a warning. They are usually physical, emotional and behavioural in nature.

PHYSICAL SIGNS:

• neglect of personal appearance;

• sudden changes in manner of dress, especially when the new style is completely out of character;

• chronic or unexplained illnesses, aches and pains;

• sudden weight gain or loss; or

• sudden change in appetite.

EMOTIONAL CLUES:

• sense of hopelessness or futility;

• inability to enjoy or appreciate friendships;

• wide mood changes and sudden outbursts;

• anxiousness, extreme tension and agitation;

• loss of the ability to concentrate, daydreaming;

• loss of rational thought;

• feelings of guilt and failure;

• exaggerated fears of cancer, AIDS or physical impairment; or

• loss of enjoyment from activities formerly enjoyed.

BEHAVIOURAL SIGNS:

• increased use of alcohol or other drugs;

• unexplained use of alcohol or other drugs;

• withdrawal from family and former friends, sometimes acting in a manner which forces them away;

• giving away prized possessions;

• preoccupation with thoughts of death;

• decreased work activity, isolation;

• making a will, writing poetry or stories about suicide or death;

• quietly putting affairs in order, “taking care of business;”

• accident proneness and increase in risk-taking behaviour such as careless driving or dangerous use of firearms;

• hoarding pills, hiding weapons, describing methods of committing suicide; or

• threatening suicide or previous attempts.

While all these signs may indicate that a person is experiencing problems, the behavioural signs are especially significant.

A PREVIOUS ATTEMPT IS A PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT SIGN.

Such an attempt increases the risk of future ones. In any of the signs, the key word is CHANGE.

It is important to know that resources are available. You are not alone; there are individuals and agencies willing and able to assist you or a family member when dealing with depression or thoughts of suicide.

If you are concerned about a family member’s health and safety, or your own, call the Problem Gambling Help Line at 1-800-306-6789.

SOURCE: PROBLEM GAMBLING FAMILY GUIDE – Saskatchewan Ministry of Health