Migraine, Stigma, Suicide - Stop!

Nancy Harris Bonk Health Guide
  • Migraine disease...

    • affects more than 37 million Americans;
    • is the 12th most disabling disorder in the United States;


    • and in 2006, the National Institutes of Health spent less than $10 million dollars in researching all headache disorders; about 1/10th of 1% percent of the NIH total budget.¹

    Clearly, that isn't nearly enough research dollars. In addition to the lack of funding for all Migraine and headache disorders, I'm really concerned about the apparent "disconnect" and stigma separating patients and doctors after I recently read the nightmare one mother is living. Her son took his own life due to his chronic, daily, debilitating Migraine pain.

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    This was a man in the prime of his life, a father of two who, at one point, owned his own business. Once the Migraine pain took over, he went on Social Security Disability and a led a life filled with pain. He routinely saw his doctor every month, like a good patient, and each month told the doctor "I can't take this pain anymore, isn't there anything else we can do?" The doctor's answer was always the same, "You will have to learn to live in pain." Really, is that the best the doctor could do? Not suggest this young man see a different doctor for another opinion? Three years worth of pain medication that didn't take the pain away and the doctor just told this man to live with it?


    During conversations this Migraineur had with his mom, he was quite insistent (as I have been) that as awful as it is, when someone you love has cancer - as someone I love does right now, there is one of two outcomes; they survive and carry on with life - or they die. A cancer patient is kept medicated and comfortable until that point. Migraine disease has one outcome - it never goes away, hence the word chronic. Is this where the" disconnect" is coming from? That doctors and patients believe unless you have a Migrainous stroke, Migraine disease doesn't actually kill you? From current events, this couldn't be farther from the truth.


    What are we going to do about this? How can we, as a group, continually let this happen? Are we all too sick and tired to figure out a way to help each other? I'm not implying it is our fault that this man took his life, but I am wondering about the apparent lack of "go get 'um" compared to other health groups such as people with MS, autism and epilepsy. And are doctors so over-booked it never occurs to them to offer patients options other than or in addition to pain medication? Too busy to evaluate their coping skills? Why are there so few Migraine specialists? I'm not really interested in where the issue started; I'm just interested in working together to fix it. Migraine is a disease that needs to be managed, just like diabetes, MS, Alzheimer's and epilepsy. Patients need to learn new coping skills when given a new diagnosis, even if they think they aren't needed. Without these skills, people will continue to take their lives from the chronic, debilitating disease that is Migraine.  


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    If you have any ideas on how to stop the stigma of Migraine disease, as a group of open minded patients willing to support and educate each other, I'm open to ideas. Click the "Add Comment" link below, and let's discuss this important issue.





    1 Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy. "Fact Sheet: Headache Disorders in the United States." 2007-2011.



    Hope you're feeling well,



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    © The HealthCentral Network, 2011
    Last updated March 9, 2011
Published On: March 09, 2011