Suicide is an often-overlooked and taboo subject. That is the reason why I wanted to write this column — to bring awareness and light to this overlooked topic. Suicide is a very serious issue that a lot of us may have dealt with, in one way or another.
Many of us know a friend, or a friend of a friend, a brother, cousin, aunt or uncle who has passed due to suicide. Or maybe you have never had an experience with suicide other than hearing about celebrities’ deaths, television shows, books or movies (like Girl Interrupted with Angelina Jolie) that talk about the sudject.
Whether you have any real life experience with this subject or not, you might not know this: Among fibromyalgia patients and patients with other chronic illness, like lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, or lupus, the suicide rate is sky-high. How high you ask? Ten times as high as the general population, according to Psychology Today.
Why is this, and what can we all do about it?
Living with a chronic illness can be devastating. It can take away your since of purpose, life as you know it, and your sense of normalcy. This can be a lot for one person to bear. Dealing with a chronic illness diagnosis is rated as one of the most stressful events anyone can go through in their lifetime, right up there with other stressful events like, divorce, death of a loved one, moving, job loss or financial troubles like bankruptcy.
Another reason why the suicide rate is so high among chronic illness patients is the lack of support and understanding. Often they can feel lost, confused, or hopeless because this is not an illness that can be cured. There is no easy fix, often patients suffer for years on end and it can really affect relationships and families. In turn, this causes a multitude of problems and struggles for not only the one suffering, but also those who love and care about them.
Fibromylagia patients can feel hopeless, like they will never feel “normal” or “well,” and because there is no cure, it seems even more hopeless. With a chronic illness the best you can do is manage the disease, rather than “get well.”
So, what can we do to help bring down the suicide rate? Here are my suggestions:
First, educate yourself. Find information about the illness from reputable websites. Gather as much info on the illness as you can if you or a loved one is dealing with this illness.
Secondly, offer support. Ask questions, don’t assume, communicate. Ask your loved ones how they’re doing and how they’re feeling. Let them know you care.
The third thing you can do is understand. Understanding is a very hard thing to do, both physically and mentally. If you feel like your loved one might be at risk of suicide, seek help and support from a professional. Go to doctors’ appointments with them. Tell them you are concerned. Don’t dismiss things said in a joking way. They might not be joking at all; rather, they may be trying to tell you how they feel without being vulnerable to judgment.