Have your friends and family been watching you more closely than usual? Asking “How are you doing, really?” a little more often than before. Maybe it’s because the BBC ran a story last week entitled:
Cancer patients ‘left suicidal’
There was a research study done that showed:
A significant number of cancer patients regularly believe they would be “better off dead”, a survey shows.
Well shit! If I knew anyone with cancer I’d be really worried. Then I went on to read the article. I don’t think these results should really be stunning to anyone.
Cancer patients are three times more likely to think they would be “better off dead” or to contemplate suicide than the rest of the population – a Cancer Research UK study reports online today.*
Patients were most likely to have these thoughts if they had substantial pain and particularly if they had serious emotional distress.
Well of COURSE THEY DID! I guess the people who did this study had not previously talked to people with cancer or people in pain. There was further information in this study which showed when 3,000 outpatients with a variety of cancers, answered a questionnaire about their physical and emotional symptoms.
Among the questions, patients were asked: “Over the last two weeks how often have you been bothered by the following problem: thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself in some way?” Patients could answer: “not at all,” “several days,” “more than half the days” or “nearly every day.”
Of the 2,924 patients who took part, nearly 8 per cent said they had thoughts of being better off dead or of hurting themselves. This compares with a figure of just 2.6 per cent in a similar survey of the general population conducted in Australia.
Well perhaps we should help educate the researchers. If you have been diagnosed with cancer it is the rare individual whose first thought is not “Oh God, I’m going to die”. Treatment can be awful. Chemotherapy drugs can mess with all parts of the body including the mind. Surgery, radiation, multiple medications, dialysis I don’t know how this can be surprising. Some of these people know that whatever treatment they receive, short of a miracle, they are going to die. This is not negativity, this is life.
On top of all of this in many, many cases there are still the requirements of life; family, work, school, kids, mortgages, laundry, you name it.
So the question asked on the computer was: “Over the last two weeks how often have you been bothered by the following problem: thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself in some way?” Patients could answer: “not at all,” “several days,” “more than half the days” or “nearly every day.” The piece that they did not ask was, “How many minutes or hours of each of those days would you say you had these thoughts?”
That would really help them understand. Lots of people have thoughts, some fleeting and some persistent and that’s the difference. The people who are having consistent thoughts of suicide day in and day out need assistance if they want it. The rest of us would like to assure you that most of the time we’re doing just fine thanks.
More than half of 26,000 students across 70 colleges and universities who completed a survey on suicidal experiences reported having at least one episode of suicidal thinking at some point in their lives. Furthermore, 15 percent of students surveyed reported having seriously considered attempting suicide and more than 5 percent reported making a suicide attempt at least once in their lifetime.
Six percent of undergraduates and 4 percent of graduate students reported seriously considering suicide within the 12 months prior to answering the survey.
Both undergraduate and graduate students gave these reasons for their suicidal thinking, in the following order: (1) wanting relief from emotional or physical pain; (2) problems with romantic relationships; (3) the desire to end their life; and (4) problems with school or academics. Fourteen percent of undergraduates and 8 percent of graduate students who seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months made a suicide attempt. Nineteen percent of undergraduate attempters and 28 percent of graduate student attempters required medical attention. Half of attempters reported overdosing on drugs as their method, said the authors.
From the survey, the authors found that suicidal thoughts are a frequently recurring experience akin to substance abuse, depression and eating disorders. They also found that relying solely upon the current treatment model, which identifies and helps students who are in crisis, is insufficient for addressing reducing all forms of suicide behavior on college campuses.
Presented Sunday at the 116th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, psychologist David J. Drum, PhD, and co-authors at the University of Texas at Austin reported their findings from a Web-based survey conducted by the National Research Consortium of Counseling Centers in Higher Education.