More than 300 million people of all ages suffer from a condition that's a leading cause of suicide: depression.
World Health Organization statistics indicate 800,000 people take their own lives annually because of depression.
The news is filled with stories of people who were so depressed they decided to end their misery through lethal means. Well-known people, like actor Robin Williams, TV host Don Cornelius and musician Kurt Cobain were among the most shocking.
One debate that researchers battle with is whether depression causes loneliness or is a cause of loneliness. The reality is a lot less black and white.
According to an article written by Jenna B for The Mighty, loneliness is the symptom of depression that we don't talk about the same way we acknowledge changes in happiness, appetite, sleeping habits, energy and mood.
Jenna used her own anecdotal experiences to paint a picture of how depression leads to loneliness:
When I get severely depressed, I long for somebody to talk to, somebody who will understand and not judge me. But I can’t seem to open my mouth and ask for the help I need. I get trapped in my own brain, and I can hear myself screaming, but, unfortunately, nobody can read my mind. The more depressed I get, the more I isolate from the outside world, and the less motivation I have to reach out to people.
Some research suggests loneliness causes depression -- the opposite of Jenna's experience.
Everyday Health reported on a study published in medical journal PLOS One that noted, "individuals who posses poor-quality social relationships and a lack of social support are at more than double the risk of developing depression."
These findings support one of Jenna's main points: People work best when they interact with others.
"Even most introverts need to be social with small groups or one-on-one," she wrote.
Professor Sean Seepersad, the founder -- current president and CEO of the Web of Loneliness Institute, Inc., a nonprofit organization whose mission is to globally reduce loneliness through awareness building, research, intervention and consulting -- weighed in on the topic in a Psychology Today article:
If it is that that sadness is related to a lack of social connections or a sense of belonging, then perhaps loneliness is the real problem and not depression. They may actually not be depressed at all. Understanding loneliness as a fundamental problem that needs to be dealt with, arguably, can lead to much more effective results than simply lumping everything together as depression.
His conclusion reflected Jenna's powerful call to action: If you do have a friend or loved one who is depressed, please remember, it is so important to spend time with him or her. Depression is a disease of loneliness, and connection with other people makes all the difference in recovery.
Though their approaches are different, both Jenna and Seepersad both emphasize the importance of considering loneliness as a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed within the scope of depression -- whether or not it comes before or after.