Gabrielle Union said she had suicidal thoughts in December, and it may be linked to her perimenopause

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Gabrielle Union said she had suicidal thoughts in December, and it may be linked to her perimenopause
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images
  • Gabrielle Union revealed she battled with mental health struggles back in December.
  • Union was previously diagnosed with perimenopause, which has been linked to suicidal ideations.
  • The actress said she uses therapy to help with her PTSD and ideations.

Gabrielle Union told Gwyneth Paltrow she had suicidal ideations in December after months of struggling with intensified mental health problems, Us Weekly reported.

During the March 6 interview for Goop Health's virtual summit, Union told Paltrow while she had dealt with mental health issues in the past, she had never felt anything as severe as what she experienced during the pandemic in 2020.

After a small argument with her husband Dwyane Wade, Union said she felt herself slip into a particularly scary space.

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"I fell into something so dark in December that it scared me," Union said. "Instead of my usual problem-solving, immediately my brain, that little inner voice said, 'He's never going to get it unless you're dead.'"

Union was diagnosed with perimenopause, the beginning stages of menopause, nearly a decade prior. The condition has been linked to suicidal ideations.

Union's comments came just days before Meghan Markle's bombshell Oprah interview, where she also opened up about her battle with suicidal ideation. Both women are using their time in the spotlight to illuminate an issue that is often dealt with in silence.

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Union was diagnosed with perimenopause in her 30s, but the condition drastically worsened in 2020

Even though Union was diagnosed with perimenopause nearly a decade ago, she felt her symptoms intensify seemingly overnight.

"I thought I had early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's. I gained 20 pounds overnight of water retention, inflammation - bizarre. I couldn't think," Union said. "Now, when I have to public speak in the last few months, I'm so anxious, because I'm like, 'Am I going to remember words?'"

Union is not alone in her struggles. Perimenopausal women are twice as likely to report a major depressive episode than women in other age groups, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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According to a 2018 study published in medical journal the Australian Prescriber, perimenopausal women, usually ages 42 to 52, also tend to experience higher rates of suicide than any other age group of women.

While it is a common phenomenon, depression during perimenopause is a greatly understudied condition, in part because of its unique set of symptoms like hostility, weight gain, and problems with memory and concentration.

Some studies have linked perimenopausal depression to the intense fluctuations of hormones like estradiol - a hormone that regulates brain function and mood - during this period of time. Common treatments for perimenopausal depression include hormone therapies and anti-depressant drugs.

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Union previously said therapy helped her with PTSD from sexual assault and racial trauma

This isn't the first time Union has discussed her mental health publicly. In October 2020, Union told Women's Health magazine the beginning of her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemmed from being sexually assaulted at gunpoint when she was 19 years old.

According to Oprah Magazine, Union learned to deal with the panic attacks, that became part of her daily life following the assault, through decades of therapy.

The ongoing protests against police brutality and racism in the summer of 2020 severely triggered Union's PTSD. The 48-year-old said emotional tools she learned in her sessions helped her to deal with the more severe flare-ups she experienced in the past year.

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"I break out my emotional fix-me toolkit, and I try to run through all the situations," Union said. "I call it my 'what's the likelihood of X happening?' method."

Living with passive suicidal ideations is more common than we think

Suicidal ideations are commonly portrayed as active plans made to take one's life, but experts say passive suicidal ideations are common and equally concerning.

People experiencing passive suicidal ideations don't have a plan worked out to die. Instead, they experience a passive desire to no longer be alive or a lack of attachment to being alive.

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Union and Markle using their platforms to voice their struggles with mental health and passive suicidal ideations could bring potentially life-saving awareness to an often taboo subject.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, suicidologist and psychologist Stacey Freedenthal wrote that, "Hearing stories of people resisting suicidal thoughts without acting on them has been linked to decreases in suicide rates."

"By encouraging more openness about suicidal thoughts, like Meghan's, we can send the message to others that they are not alone, that change is possible and that people do make it out alive," Freedenthal said.

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