Suicide and medical conditions are closely linked, indicating this shows a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The various factors involved in this increased risk depend on the specific medical condition, but likely include changes in cognitive ability, which make it harder to solve problems and make everyday decisions, living with chronic pain, and the emotional toll and challenges associated with long-term medical conditions and the limitations they pose. A report by the U.S. Surgeon General and of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention highlighted the risks of suicide and medical conditions goes up when the medical conditions are life threatening.
Suicide and Those With Cancer
People suffering from cancer are commonly known to be at a higher risk of suicide. Although the risk seems to be the highest during the first several months after being diagnosed, the risk of suicide remains high throughout the first five years. Very often what precipitates suicide in these cases is the fear cancer patients have of how others regard cancer and how their cancer is being managed, not necessarily the patient’s fear of death.
The side effects associated with cancer treatments can very often lead to psychological problems. Exhaustion and fatigue, which are typically reported by patients being treated for cancer, can raise the risk of suicide in those suffering from cancer. Additionally, anxiety and depression frequently occur in cancer patients. Approximately 63% to 85% of people who suffer from cancer who end up taking their lives meet the criteria for major depression and anxiety and/or a cognitive disorder. Whether these mental disorders are brought on by the disease, or are an adverse side effect of cancer treatment, or happen as a result of the disease isn’t always clear, but these are the various factors that influence the rise of suicide and medical conditions among patients with cancer.
Suicide & People with HIV/AIDS
Most research studies on people living with HIV show the lifetime prevalence of attempted suicides range from 22% to 50%. People living with AIDS were shown to be 44 times more apt to have one or more suicide attempts than people not suffering from AIDS. Although these studies report that the numbers of medical patients suffering from HIV/AIDS who commit suicide are much higher than for people suffering from other serious life-threatening medical conditions or for people in the general population, the truth is that studies have shown no significant differences when it comes to suicide and patients suffering from HIV and other groups at increased risk of suicide, like psychiatric patients and people who use injection drugs.
Therefore, one’s HIV status may very well not be the most important factor when it comes to suicide. In fact, other research studies have reported that suicide in patients suffering from HIV occur most frequently in patients with a prior psychiatric history and who have other environmental and social factors that put them at risk for suicide. People with HIV often have personality, anxiety, mood and substance abuse disorders as well, which makes suicide and medical conditions a complex interplay of a number of different risk factors.
If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide and medical conditions are complicating your recovery from depression, please give us a call.