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Suicide Prevention and Pain Awareness Month


September is suicide prevention 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 46,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2020.

  • 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 U.S. living with some form of pain.

  • Almost 1 in 3 people in the U.S. have chronic pain.

  • The economic cost exceeds $600 billion annually in the U.S.

  • 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. Asking about suicide does not increase 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 or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself

  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, pills, etc.

  • Talking or writing about death

  • Feelings of rage, agitation

  • Sleeping too much or too little

  • Feeling anxious, depressed (especially untreated depression)

  • Withdrawing from family and friends

  • A history of abuse or trauma

  • Experiencing mood changes

  • Loss of interest in school and other daily activities

  • Feeling excessive guilt or shame

  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or trapped

  • An 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 also trigger suicidal thoughts. These include loss of a loved one through death or divorce; a serious or terminal illness; chronic physical pain; sexual, physical, or verbal abuse; and 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 at 988. 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. Visit us at or call us at 908-322-0112.



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