Suicide Hotline: The Connection Between Depression/Addiction



Three things are often profoundly interwoven with one another – addiction, depression, and suicide.

Many people who call a suicide hotline, for example, struggle with not only depression and suicide ideation but also substance abuse or addiction.

Understanding how each of these concepts is related can be a vital step in recognizing warning signs.

Below we’ll answer “what is depression” and explore its relationship with addiction and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.


What Is Depression?

Before going into addiction and suicide, what is depression?

Depression or depressive disorder is a mental health disorder that is more than occasionally feeling down; long-term feelings of hopelessness with accompanying symptoms of depression.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in some cases, depression can even be life-threatening due to the risk of suicide attempts depressive symptoms can cause.

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Crying
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Anxiety Disorders

To be diagnosed with severe depression, a person would have to show symptoms of depression almost every day, for weeks or months; otherwise, professionals may consider it a depressive episode. 

We’re increasingly learning more about depressive disorder, and its biological basis.

For example, people with depression commonly have close relatives that also have clinical depression or similar mental disorders.

According to mental health professionals; medical conditions, mental health conditions, social conditions, and potentially biological factors also likely play a role.


What is Addiction?

Much like depressive disorder, addiction is a complex mental illness; when someone has an addiction, they compulsively use a substance despite harmful outcomes or side effects.

  • Addiction leads to impairment in functionality in your daily activities.
  • Addiction also causes distortions in both behavior and thinking.
  • With repeated substance exposure, brain function changes. 


Medical Experts Group the Symptoms of Addiction into Four Categories

Loss of Control 

Cravings to keep using drugs or alcohol, intense urges, and failed attempts to stop using a substance or cut down.


Social Problems 

Someone with an addiction might not show interest in school or work, or they might give up other social activities that they once enjoyed.


Risky Use 

The concept that someone with an addiction will keep using drugs or alcohol despite known risks and problems.  


Physical Effects of Ongoing Substance Use

A person may develop a tolerance, meaning they need more significant amounts to get the same effects or have withdrawal symptoms if they stop using drugs.


The Link Between Depression and Addiction

There’s often a relationship between depression and addiction.

Screen Shot 2021 06 26 at 01.35.13

  • Around 50% of people with a substance use disorder will experience a co-occurring mental health disorder within their life. 
  • Also, 50% of people who have a mental health issue will develop a substance use disorder.
  • An estimated 37% of people who misuse alcohol and 53% of individuals who misuse drugs have at least one serious mental illness, including depression.

We don’t always know which comes first.

For some people, it could be that they dealt with some form of depression, and then tried to self-medicate to handle the symptoms, they turned to drugs or alcohol.

It could also be that long-term drug or alcohol misuse changes the brain and can increase the risk of developing a mental health issue such as depression.


What to Know About Suicidal Behavior

The COVID-19 crisis, and its many harmful effects, have caused an increase in calls to suicide hotlines.

A call to a crisis center can save a person’s life, but sadly many people don’t sadly don’t make the call.

  • Suicide remains the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S. Around 47,000 people die annually in the U.S. because of suicide. 
  • Any time a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, it is considered an emergency. 
  • Warning signs of suicidal behavior or thoughts can include threats or comments about it, aggression, impulsive behavior, or withdrawal from friends or family.

  • Another sign of suicidal thoughts is an increase in the use of drugs or alcohol. 
  • There’s a term called suicidal ideation to be aware of. Suicidal ideation is when you have thoughts of killing yourself.


Is There A Relationship Between Addiction and Suicide?

Along with the links between addiction and depression, there is also a potential relationship between addiction and suicide.

For example, many people who contact a suicide helpline may try to take their own lives by intentionally overdosing on drugs or alcohol.

  • People who struggle with substance misuse are six times more likely to commit suicide.
  • Substance misuse is the second leading risk factor for suicide, with depression being the number one factor.
  • Then, you have to consider that depression among people with a substance use disorder is anywhere from two to four times higher than in the general population.
  • Around one-third of all people who die by suicide are also under the influence of substances.

Some emotions may occur along with a substance use disorder that can also trigger suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

For example, someone may feel hopeless and as if there’s no way out of their current situation.

Their issues related to substance use may continue to worsen.

They may have broken relationships, financial and legal issues, lose their job or suffer from health effects.


What If You Suspect Someone Is Thinking About Suicide?

Maybe you have a friend or loved one that you believe could be contemplating suicide.

  • If so, try to be open in your conversation and ask them direct questions about whether they Screen Shot 2021 06 26 at 01.35.22consider suicide.  
  • Stay calm, acknowledge that what they’re feeling is legitimate and be supportive.  
  • Don’t try to minimize what they may be feeling. 
  • You can offer to help them get health care, make a phone call to a suicide hotline, or go with them to their first therapy appointment. 
  • You should take action if you are experiencing what you think could be a person considering suicide. 
  • If there seems to be an imminent threat of self-harm, call 911 and stay with the person until help arrives.


If you’re in the United States, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.

There are counselors available at all times.


Getting Help

For anyone struggling with depression, addiction, suicidal ideation, or all three, help is available.

However, it’s essential to treat suicide as a psychiatric emergency again because it is.

This might mean contacting a suicide hotline or calling 911 for crisis intervention.

Once the immediate emergency threat has passed, a treatment program can help with addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders.

Opus Health has treatment programs designed for co-occurring mental health issues, like depression and addiction.

Through talk therapy, medication, counseling, support groups, and aftercare we can work with you to help prevent suicide and overcome addiction.


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