Where There Is Life, There Is Hope, Depression And Why Suicide Is Not An Option.

Severely Depressive Patient Successfully Treated Using Deep Brain Stimulation

There are many types and varieties of depression that range from Major Depression to Bipolar Disorder and Dysthymia. It is a world wide phenomenon that incapacitates large numbers of people when they are in the midst of depressive symptoms. While modern anti depressant medications along with psychotherapy are used to successfully treat depressed people, there are a certain number of individuals who remain resistant to any form of treatment including electroshock therapy (ECT). As a result, these treatment resistant patients continue to suffer the extreme pain of depression along with experiencing suicidal thoughts and making suicide attempts.

There are a certain number of our readers who have posted their opinion that life is so very difficult for them due to their depression that they want to die. A few of these have written posts that reflect their deep belief that they have a right to commit suicide as a way of ending their pain and suffering.

I have always stood firmly against suicide as a last resort for depression or any other mental illness. The reason I hold so strongly to this anti suicide opinion is my conviction that where there is life, there is hope(Just to clarify, I am not discussing terminal illnesses). This new research is submitted in support of my belief that relief is on the way for even the worst of depression.

A New Depression Treatment:

A team of neurosurgeons at Heidelberg University Hospital and psychiatrists at the Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany, have for the first time, successfully treated a patient suffering from severe depression by stimulating the Habenula, a tiny nerve structure in the brain. A 64-year-old female patient, who had suffered from depression since age 18, was not helped by medication or electroconvulsive therapy. However, since undergoing this new procedure she is, for the first time in years, free of depressive symptoms.

The Procedure:

This new treatment involves brain surgery that allows for deep brain stimulation with electrodes. In this case, the Habenula, located near the brain stem, is stimulated much like what happens when heart patients receive pace makers. In a manner of speaking, this is a "brain pacemaker."

While deep brain stimulation has been used in the recent past, it has been with only moderate success. This new method holds great hope because it targets a very specific part of the brain. The Habenula is the target of stimulation because it is involved is the control of three major neurotransmitter systems, all involved in depression.

Brain Plasticity

This example along with all the research being done on brain plasticity gives huge hope that someday soon, even the most severe of depression will be controlled so that people can live full and happy lives.

There can be no hope once someone has taken their own life. Hope is the essence of life, in my opinion, and there is every reason for people to feel hopeful even in the midst of despair.

If you believe that you are depressed, please get a referral to a clinical psychologist or clinical social worker, who can start working with you on finding ways of relieving your pain and suffering.

Your comments and questions are strongly encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

  • JR.

    Hello, Allan,

    I wonder a bit whether reprogramming a person by the means suggested is ... acceptable.

    I prefer, generally, the idea that it is better to persuade the patient that life is minimally worth living, rather than interfering with their "hard" programming (or indeed hardware) to produce a similar result. There should be, after all, in some sense, a freedom in being ourselves as we are. I have gone through a fair bit, and still have my favourite motorway flyover for the Final Jump but - as a free and unmodified person - I have now decided that I should not need to visit it. But, if I had decided otherwise, should I be restrained - particularly by mechanical modification ?

    Maybe I am missing the point - but, then again, maybe not.

    Best regards for the New Year,


  • Bill

    I agree wholeheartedly with you. Though I understand that some people are suffering badly. Your thoughts should provide encouragement to them.

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    Hi John,

    The surgery discussed in the article does not have as its purpose to "reprogram" the way a person thinks. Rather, its purpose is to relieve the intense pain of depression that is so very severe that it prevents the individual to gain any quality of life from their daily existence.

    Please keep in mind that this is voluntary surgery and is not imposed on an individual if it is not what they want. Also, this remains experimental although the woman cited in the article is doing very nicely.

    Anything in this life can be used for purposes that are devious or evil. There is no way to prevent that. However, it does not mean that the search for ways to help people who are in pain, should be stopped.

    The primary theme of the article is to press the point that suicide is not the only option because, even when all seems hopeless, there is still hope.