The ultimate tragedy of mood disorders is suicide. Suicide is a double disaster. Not only does it prematurely end a life, it wreaks havoc on the lives of those left behind. Devastated survivors can be traumatized by feelings of grief, guilt, anger, resentment, and confusion. "There was no time to say good-bye," and "Perhaps I could have done more," are examples of comments that are made by shell-shocked friends and relatives. Moreover, the stigma surrounding suicide makes it very difficult for family members to talk about what has happened.
By far the major cause of suicide is untreated depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 15 percent of those afflicted with a major depressive disorder and who are not treated (or who fail to respond to treatment) will end their lives by suicide. (This is 35 times the normal suicide rate.) People with serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease do not kill themselves in large numbers; depressed people do.