September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day 🎗. With the constant pressure of blood sugar levels, insulin, and expenses, it isn’t surprising that there seems to be a correlation between type 1 diabetes and suicide.
Compared with the general population, studies in Britain, the US, Canada, Finland, and Australia have all shown that young adults and people living with type 1 diabetes are up to 32.5% more likely to attempt suicide.
Again, diabetes is one of the most psychologically and behaviourally demanding chronic medical illnesses around. This is in part because 95% of diabetes care is managed by the person with diabetes.
There are no breaks or holidays. There is just the constant routine of trying to desperately balance insulin, activity levels, food, hormones, and glucose levels. It is not an easy task. In many cases, this leads to diabetes burnout or depression. In the worst case, it could lead a person with type 1 diabetes to suicide.
A researcher in a recent study done on young adults with diabetes in Quebec noted that “In addition to challenges inherent to adolescence, young adults with diabetes who transition to adult care need to adapt to a new adult-care provider and a treatment facility. They tend to perceive pediatricians as more family-centered and less formal compared to adult-care providers and this can sometimes make the transition difficult.” This can lead to increased bouts of depression and suicidal tendencies.
How professionals can help to reduce suicide in people with diabetes
Thankfully, many organizations like the American Diabetes Association are now recommending routine screening for psychological issues like depression and watching for type 1 diabetes and suicide.
An article in the Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry takes things one step further. It offers five steps that clinicians can take to safely managed depressed patients who are prescribed insulin. They suggest that patients are
- Regularly assess for symptoms of depression
- Refer to a mental health provider (sooner rather than later)
- Work closely with mental health providers
- Monitor thoughts of suicide when following a patient with depression
- Consider safeguarding insulin when working with a significantly depressed or suicidal patient
Recognize some of the signs of suicide
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following…
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
Please consider speaking with a health care professional immediately. The US Department of Health and Human Services considers the above list to be warning signs of suicide.
Who to call to help when having suicidal thoughts
There are many people that you can call if you have thoughts of suicide including a close friend or family member, your family doctor, or 911.
If you cannot reach a health care provider for any reason, please contact one of the mental health professionals we have listed on the Diabetes Advocacy resource page or call
- Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645)
- Centre for Suicide Prevention (1-833-456-4566)
- Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868)
- The Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States at 1(800) 273-8255 of use their Twitter (@800273TALK) resources.
Remember that if you need immediate assistance, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room. Your life matters and help is available for you.
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