Nav: Home

Social networks and suicide prevention

May 22, 2019

Depression and mental health problems are increasing - and suicide and drug overdose rates are rising dramatically in the USA.

In a hyperconnected world, traditional social networks - face-to-face contacts of daily life - are unravelling with the loss of social supports, Flinders University psychiatrists warn in a letter published in the international journal The Lancet.

This is associated with increasing 'deaths of despair' related to alcohol, opiate overdose and suicide "becoming more prevalent than ever".

The experts say clinicians and others need to remember that depression and other mental health problems are known to spread through close social networks, up to "three degrees of separation" - or a friend of a friend of a friend.

"You could possibly say the rising suicide rate in the USA is related to 'contagion' of low mood and depression. Despair and distress can spread through social networks," says Professor Tarun Bastiampillai, from the Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health in South Australia.

"The major implication is that instead of only resorting to medication, or individual psychological treatment, clinicians should also look to immediate social networks and wider social context including the influences of friends and family and wellbeing at work.

"The emotional experiences of this clustered social network of up to 150 people - the traditional size of a village in the past - means 'friends of friends of friends' can have a negative or positive effect on us," says clinical academic Professor Bastiampillai.

"More now than ever, we have ways to connect to other people online. Our diary can be full and our lives busy, but are we connecting in a meaningful or harmful way via these online and offline social networks?

"Clinicians may need to look beyond an individual's psychology and look at the individual's wider social network and the negative or positive impacts it has."

Doctors should consider 'social prescribing' - where patients who present with depression are helped to engage with positive activities within their networks.

While Australia's suicide rate is relatively stable, America's total suicide rate has increased 31% from 10.7 to 14 per 100,000 people in the past two decades. US suicide rates among males is almost four times higher (22.4 per 100,000 in 2017) than among females (6.1 per 100,000 in 2017).

In addition, there has been a concerning increase in US deaths related to drug overdoses during this time, from 6.1 per 100,000 in 1999 to 21.7 per 100,000 in 2017. (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db329.htm)

Low socioeconomic status, diminishing job prospects, low income, drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown, divorce and rural isolation are linked to the official figures.

Therapeutic interventions can include analysing 'depression clusters' and developing more positive and healthy social networks - from relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours to joining a sporting club or hobby group to expand the social network.

have also warned against the overuse of antipsychotic drugs in young people, including for bipolar disorder and anorexia nervosa.

The letter, 'Social network theory and rising suicide rates in the USA' by Flinders University psychiatry researchers Professor Bastiampillai and colleague Dr Stephen Allison, and Seth W Perry and Julio Licinio from SUNY Upstate Medical University, New York, was published this month in The Lancet (Elsevier) correspondence.
-end-


Flinders University

Related Depression Articles:

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.
Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.
CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
Post-natal depression in dads linked to depression in their teenage daughters
Fathers as well as mothers can experience post-natal depression -- and it is linked to emotional problems for their teenage daughters, new research has found.
Being overweight likely to cause depression, even without health complications
A largescale genomic analysis has found the strongest evidence yet that being overweight causes depression, even in the absence of other health problems.
Don't let depression keep you from exercising
Exercise may be just as crucial to a depression patient's good health as finding an effective antidepressant.
Having an abortion does not lead to depression
Having an abortion does not increase a woman's risk for depression, according to a new University of Maryland School of Public Health-led study of nearly 400,000 women.
Mother's depression might do the same to her child's IQ
Roughly one in 10 women in the United States will experience depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Teenage depression linked to father's depression
Adolescents whose fathers have depressive symptoms are more likely to experience symptoms of depression themselves, finds a new Lancet Psychiatry study led by UCL researchers.
More Depression News and Depression Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.