Migraine and Suicide Prevention

Nancy Harris Bonk Health Guide
  • Migraines can have terrible effects on our lives. We see examples of this on our site too often, sometimes when members reach the point of considering suicide.



    World Suicide Prevention Day is being held on September 10th this year, which is during National Suicide Prevention Week (September 5th - 11th, 2010). Consider these numbers:

    • Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States based on national statistics in 2007, with an annual rate of approximately 11.5 per 100,000.2 

    • Migraine disease on the other hand, is the 12th most disabling disorder in the United States and affects more than 37 million people.1 

    • Americans who have Migraine with aura are three times more likely to attempt suicide compared to those with no migraine, whether or not major depression is also present.1 

    These are some pretty sobering numbers.

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    Men seem to complete suicide at a higher rate compared to women, more than 3 times in fact, but women attempt suicide three times more than men do. In addition, people with a history of mental health issues (diagnosed) typically have a higher rate of suicide. We know Migraine may be comorbid with a number of mental health conditions including depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. Even more interesting is that during psychological autopsies, studies have shown over 90% of competed suicides had one or more mental health disorders. If we add anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions to an emotionally stressful situation, our problem solving skills may be reduced. All these factors may contribute to more suicidal thinking. It almost feels like a catch 22.


    There have been conversations about suicide and suicidal thoughts on the MyMigraineConnection discussion forum recently. Some brave members have shared their very personal stories about their unrelenting, exhausting and frustrating Migraine pain and how easy it can be to feel that we're at the "end of our rope." Because Migraine disease can be so disabling, disruptive, and destructive, there are points in our lives when we may feel there is nowhere to turn and/or nothing to live for. This is one reason why it is imperative to have a good network of support and coping skills for managing Migraine disease, other headache disorders, or other illnesses.

    Suicidal ideation, at times, could be centered on problems that may feel untreatable, unattainable or unsolvable, but this may be more perception than reality. Often times, when we feel like this, and our Migraine pain becomes too much to bear, there are those who feel like suicide is the only answer. It's as if there are no other solutions to bad situations, and we have no hopes of long-term pain relief. If you ever feel this way, please take a look at Migraines and Feeling Hopeless - Hang On! 


    There are remedies besides suicide, even if you are not aware of them. Getting any underlying issues treated will help tremendously, and it certainly shouldn't make you less of a person to ask for help. You may not feel like you are depressed or anxious, but if you are thinking about suicide, something is not right and needs to be addressed. If you've been treated before for the same issue, so what? Maybe it just wasn't the right treatment, counselor, or combination of both. Or maybe it is time for what I call a "tune up." There is no shame in talking about the same things more than once. Some problems feel bigger and answers are nowhere in sight when chronic pain takes over.


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    While being pushed to the point of considering suicide may be an unfortunate part of Migraine disease for some of us, and we do understand how someone can get to this point, but it really doesn't have to get to this point.


    There are tools to help curb, or prevent suicidal ideation. What we need when we are down and out is the right combination of help and support, compassion and care, and yes, even self-care. If we don't have strong enough coping skills, it is time to get them. Snyone with Migraine disease can use an occasional boost.



    1 Shapiro, Robert E., MD, PhD. "Headache Disorders in the United States." Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy. 2007.


    2 American Association of Suicidology. Suicide in the U.S.A. Based on Current (2007) Statistics





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    © The HealthCentral Network, 2010
    Last updated September 6, 2010
Published On: September 06, 2010