Suicide is never easy to talk about. It’s really difficult to write about also. I think it is because I feel that someone may interpret my words the wrong way and may not fully understand my intent. 

Therefore, that’s where I’m going to begin with writing this blog. Please note, I am in no way qualified to give advice or to aid if someone is contemplating suicide, has suicidal thoughts, mental health issues, or knows someone who is dealing with the afore mentioned. My training and experience has been and continues to be in physical fitness, how to manage that fitness before and after sustaining physical injury and related items. Consequently, I do not feel comfortable offering advice for suicide prevention.  What I do feel comfortable writing about in this blog is through the experience of a person who is very close to me. 

Someone, who I consider family, shared an encounter which helped gain some perspective that may be insightful for this article.. I’ve known this person for years. They gave me permission to discuss their experience regarding suicide on my blog. Their story is something this person has never told anyone previously. While attending college, this person took too many over-the-counter medications at one time to cure a cold/allergies from which they were suffering. The consequence resulted in his friends calling 911 and the person being to be rushed via ambulance to the emergency room. What the person never disclosed to the EMTs, doctors, friends or family is that they meant to do it. The reason for the attempted suicide was, the person was feeling overwhelmed with everyday life and felt they didn’t have the coping skills to deal with life any longer. There was a lot going on in this person’s life and ending their life seemed like a the only way out. Furthermore, they didn’t want to be a burden to anyone else. How serious was the attempt? The EMTs were discussing on the way to the hospital that this person wasn’t going to make it. I’m so glad this person survived and I understand how fortunate this person is to still be here.  One thing different or the timing slightly altered and maybe that attempt may have succeeded.

This person went on to share with me that the happiest they have ever been in their life was when they were combining their everyday life with a regular fitness routine.  This person wasn’t in active sports their whole life so a regular participation of exercises was new. Science has come a long way with their studies of depression and how exercise affects that.  What my friend was experiencing with their mental well being while having a consistent exercise routine can be looked at in a scientific view.  

Published January 10, 2019 was a study called “Physical Exercise in Major Depression: Reducing the Mortality Gap While Improving Clinical Outcomes”. This Study looked at exercise interventions consisting of three sessions per week for 12-24 weeks. They found that these interventions typically resulted in a medium to large reduction in the severity of depression, measured by the symptom rating scales.  Furthermore, it has also been found to result in 22% higher likelihood of remission from depression than treatment as usual (about a third of patients experienced the remission). This quantifies what my close friend was saying when they said regular exercise helped them feel the best they ever felt.

“Although there are relatively few head-to-head comparisons and duration of treatment may be different, the efficacy of exercise may be comparable in terms of magnitude to that of psychotherapies. Another long-held belief among clinicians is that exercise does only ameliorate non-specific somatic symptoms, such as sleep and appetite changes. Whereas, extant results suggest that exercise indeed reduces core symptoms of depression, such as depressed mood, anhedonia, and suicidal ideation. At present, research is still needed to establish the efficacy of exercise in the long-term course of major depression. Some analyses suggest that the antidepressant effects may diminish beyond the duration of the exercise intervention. However, individuals who regularly engage in moderate physical activity maintain reduced risk of incurring depressive episodes. 

The premature mortality of individuals with depression is an alarming public health concern, which is exacerbated by the present inability to offer satisfactory treatments. Physical exercise represents an underutilized intervention that may uniquely address both concerns at the same time. First, exercise offers numerous physical benefits, which can counteract several mechanisms postulated to increase mortality risk in depression. Second, if prescribed and delivered correctly, exercise can be as effective as other first-line treatments, while being mostly free of adverse side-effects.  While there is a need of pragmatic trials to evaluate the long-term effects of exercise and its cost-effectiveness, clinicians in the mental health sector should acknowledge this ancient, yet new treatment option and should start to use it to the benefit of patients.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6335323/)

 

Jesse Hershey

Personal Fitness Trainer

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