Suicide is a concern for the chronic invisible illness community, by Cathy L Pederson in Journal of Health Science & Education Vol 4, #1, p 176, January 28, 2020



Rates of suicidal ideation, attempts, and completion are alarmingly high in chronic invisible illness communities. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome [1], with 20% of patients dying by suicide [2]. In postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, approximately 50% are at high risk for suicide, with 15-18% reporting past suicide attempts, and 13% stating that they will likely make a future suicide attempt [3,4].

In the fibromyalgia community, 33% report suicidal ideation [5], while 4% of people with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome attempt suicide [6]. Finally, 1,200 chronic Lyme disease patients die by suicide in the United States annually [7]. Clearly, the chronic invisible illness community is highly affected by suicidal ideation.

There are several reasons that people with chronic invisible illness are at particularly high risk of suicide. Nearly half of the risk factors for suicide – major physical illness, sense of isolation, hopelessness, job or financial loss, loss of relationships, and lack of good health care – are prevalent in this population. Common symptoms for many with chronic illnesses have also been linked with increased suicide risk, including functional disability [8], chronic pain [9], and sleep disturbance [10]. However, most people with chronic illnesses do not have a mental health diagnosis [11].

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