The International Handbook of Suicide Prevention: Research, Policy and Practice

By Rory C. O’Connor; Jane Pirkis | Go to book overview

8
The Association Between Physical
Illness/Medical Conditions
and Suicide Risk

Maurizio Pompili, Alberto Forte, Alan L. Berman,
and Dorian A. Lamis


Introduction

Physical diseases and mental disorders often present together increasing the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Several studies have documented high rates of suicidal behavior among patients suffering from a variety of medical conditions (Berman & Pompili, 2011; Mackenzie, Popkin, & Blumenthal, 1990), and several authors have identified medical conditions as a risk factor for suicide (Berman, Silverman, & Bongar, 2000). Medical conditions are also frequently associated with anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders, which are all related to suicidal thoughts (Scott et al., 2007).

The associations between medical conditions, depression, and suicide are complex and still not well understood (Berman et al., 2000; Mackenzie et al., 1990). Several studies have attempted to investigate these associations, suggesting that they should be examined in light of the relevant pathophysiological and biochemical characteristics underlying different medical conditions (Berman et al., 2000; Mackenzie et al., 1990). In addition to the various medical diagnoses, each individual has specific personality and temperamental traits that may contribute to the onset of a specific disease, while at the same time leading to the development of a mental disorder. Furthermore, a medical condition may result in significant changes in the quality of life and also affect social and interpersonal relationships.

The objective of this chapter is to provide an overview of the international literature regarding the association between medical illnesses and suicide, suicide attempts, and ideation. Specifically, we will describe the conditions in which this phenomenon is most relevant: multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, Huntington’s disease, cancer, HIV, end-stage kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, and stroke.

The International Handbook of Suicide Prevention, Second Edition. Edited by Rory C. O’Connor and Jane Pirkis. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2016 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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