September is suicide prevention awareness month and pain awareness month. Both are very much related. Patients with chronic pain are vulnerable to depression and may present with higher risk for suicide. According to the American Chronic Pain Association, patients with chronic pain are twice as likely to attempt suicide compared with those without chronic pain, an action generally caused by a myriad of associated psychological, physical, and social factors.
Some statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revealed the prevalence of this disturbing trend:
Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016
Suicide rates went up more than 30 percent in half of states in the US since 1999
Suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016
American Chronic Pain Association states:
Chronic pain is an invisible epidemic that has a profound effect on people and society
There are 100 million people in the US living with some form of pain
Almost 1 in 3 people in the US have chronic pain
The economic cost exceeds $600 billion annually in the US
Chronic pain does not discriminate; it affects people of all ages, races, and backgrounds
Many people conceal their pain because of stigma and shame
Chronic pain has an impact on family members; they can suffer as much as the person in pain, even though they don’t feel the physical pain
Many of us feel uncomfortable to ask when someone in distress is suicidal for fear we are putting this thought in their minds. This is not true. It is a myth that asking about suicide increases the risk of suicide. The most common mental illness is depression. Some people are genetically predisposed to depression and therefore knowing the family history of past generations can be very useful. It may not be that your parents were affected by depression instead could be your grandparents, aunts, or uncles. Suicide can occur with or without depression.
What are some of the warning signs to look for? Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt oneself, looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, pills, talking or writing about death, feelings of rage, sleeping too much or too little, feeling anxious, depression (especially untreated depression) withdrawing from family and friends, history of abuse or trauma, agitation, experiencing mood changes, loss of interest in school activities, loss of interest in daily activities, feeling excessive guilt or shame, feeling hopeless and helpless, feeling trapped, and increase in alcohol or drug use.
Unfortunately, untreated mental illness including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and others can lead to suicide. Oftentimes we can dismiss ongoing depression as situational however, when it begins to interrupt with our daily living, and we exhibit the warning signs, it is time to seek professional treatment. Negative life experiences can trigger suicidal thoughts such as death of a loved one, divorce/separation, a serious illness, a terminal illness, chronic physical pain, sexual, physical or verbal abuse, legal or financial problems, to name a few.
If you or someone you know is having a difficult time, do not handle it alone, immediately seek help by calling 911 or The National Suicide Hotline 1-800 SUICIDE. With the proper treatment and support it is possible to begin to feel better.
At the Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ, we have a team of licensed professionals available day, evening and weekend hours. We are pleased to announce our affiliation with Kairos Chronic Pain experts who will begin to facilitate groups on pain management in our offices. Please call us at 908-322-0112 or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn & Medium or visit is www.hellenictherapy.com for further information.