Excerpt from article by Dr Lily Chu:

Another reason I wanted to write about this topic is to encourage professionals and others to think about reasons for suicide beyond depression and anxiety. This is especially important for ME/CFS since many mainstream providers still conflate depression or anxiety with ME/CFS or believe that the origins of ME/CFS are psychiatric or psychological.

It is also my personal experience, in taking care of elderly people, that thoughts of suicide can occur without depression or other mood disorders being involved.

Symptoms of chronic illness, especially uncontrolled pain, and secondary consequences
such as poverty, social isolation, job loss, disability, etc. also play a major role.

Surprisingly, there has been very little research examining the effects of chronic illness itself on suicide. Or perhaps not surprising, as suicide is still considered a delicate or taboo subject by many people. Therefore, the UK-based nonpartisan think tank Demos researched this issue in 2011 by exploring medical databases and interviewing key figures.

They concluded that, conservatively, at least 10% of suicides may be linked to chronic or terminal physical illness; sadly, in the health district they chose to further explore their findings (p. 66-67 of the report), 4 out of 25 health-related suicides were specifically linked to ME. Furthermore, even if depression and anxiety are involved, it could be argued that these conditions might not have arisen in an individual patient had they not become sick or severely ill with ME/CFS in the first place.

Consequently, while we should diagnose and treat mood disorders appropriately, I see them as only one stopgap measure in preventing suicide in ME/CFS. Other stopgap measures include managing symptoms to the best of our ability and addressing the unmet social needs of patients, whether they be concrete, like providing written support for food/ housing benefits, or more abstract, reinforcing the validity of patients’ experiences with their family present or referring them to a support group to decrease social isolation.

We can also work on increasing research funding and providing more accurate information to healthcare providers to give patients some degree of hope for a better future. Ultimately the best way to prevent suicide in ME/CFS will be to find effective disease-modifying treatments or cures for it.

Read the full article:

Suicide and ME/CFS , by Dr Lily Chu in IACFS/ME newsletter 9:1, May 2016, attachment 3

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