Suicide has always been a very sensitive topic to touch upon, whether it be about “suicidal ideations” (SI), “suicide attempts” (SA) or — god forbid — suicide completion. According to the World Health Organization, death by suicide is one of the leading causes of mortality rate every year (16 per 100, 000 individuals) . The worldwide lifetime prevalence for passive (without plan) and active (with a plan) SI, and SA have been estimated to be 9.2%, 3.1% and 2.7% respectively
Suffering from chronic pain (CP) seems to be an important at-risk factor for suicidality. A recent literature review has demonstrated that in comparison to the general population, individuals with CP where 2 to 3 times more likely to exhibit SI, SA and to complete suicide.
Results showed that patients that were unemployed/disabled were 6 times more likely to report SI.
One explanation might be that these patients succumb to negative cognitions such as guilt and helplessness due to their perceived uselessness and diminution of social role (e.g. purveyor).
This whole study is written in the language of disempowerment, subtly belittling and invalidating the chronic pain experience.
Why write that chronic pain patients “succumb” to negative cognitions (not even an English word) when they simply feel guilty and helpless? It seems very normal to feel guilty and helpless when robbed of ones physical strength, energy, and abilities by devastating pain that isn’t visible and has no obvious cause. By using the word “succumb” they give these normal human reactions an aura of failure.
Perhaps these researchers didn’t know that many studies have shown that our society views and treat the disabled as useless and of dismissed social importance. Those of us stricken with chronic pain certainly notice the difference between how we were treated before and after. Our social devaluation is not just a “perceived notion”.
In their choice of vocabulary and the way this article was written, these researchers have completely dismissed our very real on-the-ground experience of what it’s like to live with chronic pain in this society.
Another plausible explanation may be that patients reporting SI had more difficulty in coping with their pain, making it harder for them to convince themselves of returning to work.
Notice that they don’t say it’s harder for them to return to work, but rather that it’s harder for them to convince themselves to return to work, which makes it sound like a person can control their ability to work by “convincing themselves”. Such a ridiculous idea has no place in a scientific paper.
In line with previous literature, we also found that poor sleep quality was the only predictor of SI among the physical variables tested. We have also obtained a surprising result, namely that depressive symptoms did not significantly predict SI when mental health was taken into account — i.e. the poorer the patients perceived their mental health to be, the more likely they were to report SI. Interestingly, our results are in line with the ones found in the Quebec’s general population where SI prevalence was only 3% in individuals who judged their mental health to be good, very good or excellent, 15% in those who thought it was average, and 43% in those who perceived it to be poor
This study also seems to be saying that chronic pain does not increase suicidal thoughts, yet this directly contradicts the personal experiences of pain patients.
Too many of these studies do not correlate with our reality.