Suicide in ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia

Posted by Cort Johnson

Discuss this article on the forums


Only one study has been done on the rates of suicide in ME/CFS. A University of Washington study following 1201 patients found that suicide rates in ‘chronically fatigued’ patients were eight times higher than norms. Suicide rates in people who met the Fukuda definition of CFSwere normal.

This study has not been replicated. Even if it is accurate, and there are some reasons to think it may not be, the Forums will contain a mixture of people who meet the Fukuda criteria and those who don’t and it’s impossible to tell who is who.

Suicide rates in Fibromyalgia have been better studied with two studies showing from 9 -20 fold increased rates of suicide.

People with ME/CFS have featured prominently in ‘right to suicide’ discussions.Dr. Kervorkian assisted one person with ME/CFS. A suicide in the UK gatheredsignificant media coverage.

The life of one person on the Phoenix Rising Forums was saved when an alert Forum member from the US alerted Australian authorities in the middle of the night that she had posted a suicide message. She did attempt to kill herself and was rescued after police found her and took her to the hospital.

No single factor can identify who is at risk for committing suicide. The above personhad shown signs of depression/desperation as her health worsened but the majority of her posts were clear, well organized and well thought out. She did not, judging from those posts appear to be a candidate for suicide. Her posts justpreceding her suicide attempt had become more and more alarming, however.

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the US with 30,000 deaths a year.There are twice as many deaths due to suicide than to HIV/AIDS.

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the US with 30,000 deaths a year. There are twice as many deaths due to suicide than to HIV/AIDS.

Mood disorders

At least 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric illnesses — such as major depression, bipolar depression, or some other depressive illness. The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression.

While 80% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully, 15% of those who are clinically depressed die by suicide. Nearly half of those who commit suicide have been admitted to a psychiatric facility at some point. The most dangerous time for them is just before and after discharge.

Between 20 and 50 percent of people who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide.

Men and suicide

Young adults and males overall are at particular risk. Between 1952 and 1995, suicide in young adults nearly tripled. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people aged 15-24. Over half of all suicides occur in adult men, ages 25-65. The highest suicide rate is found in men over 85 years old. Suicide rates among the elderly are highest for those who are divorced or widowed. Four times as many men try to commit suicide as women.

Suicide rates in the United States are highest in the spring. It is estimated that there are at least 4.5 million survivors in this country/

Risk Factors for Suicide – denote broad groups of people who might, at some point, be at risk of suicide. Note how several of these are almost endemic to having ME/CFS…major physical illness, financial loss, social loss, barriers to accessing health care. One study in 80 suicide cases in the state of Washington suggested that physical illness, including cancer, heart disease and arthritis, contributed to half of those suicides.

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Some major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Relational or social loss
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Barriers to accessing health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Certain cultural and religious beliefs (for instance, the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma)

Factors That Protect Against Suicide – note how important community support can be

  • Effective care for mental, physical and substance use disorders
  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking
  • Strong connections to family and community support
  • Support through ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution and nonviolent handling of disputes

Share this!