Suicidal thoughts

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.

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One Response

  1. Open letter to Michael Moore

    Mr. Moore,

    My name is Chris Lowel and I’m pretty much a nobody in every sense of the word, but the few folks who bother reading anything at Moorewatch might know me by the endless rants I’ve posted there under the handle “biafra”.

    Moorewatch is where I’d been forever – what’s the word – spewing the vilest, bitter, woefully hate-filled monologues against all and any (primarily non-American) visitor who’s ever offered any (world)views deviating even mildly from the white, hetero, Xtian, right-wing, hardline American Way, that is, until even the most die-hard Bush drones in charge there had had enough and decided to ban me from their site, Rightfully and even cosmically so, I’ve come to realize.

    Relegated to silently sulking around online, I actually read your open letters to the people posted there, along with the usual snide responses and derision they invariably drew. Lastly, I took a look into the recently released “Slacker Uprising”, which documents your past efforts to swing the vote.

    During this time of “inaction”, as it were, I’ve come around to thinking that you do perhaps indeed have God’s ear – good karma, whatever the magic is called. Its on record that you saved the life(style) of a major detractor of yours, and then I, too, was recently stricken with a serious illness whilst eagerly adhering to his anti-welfare stance. I’m alive, but $50,000+ in debt.

    Thing is, after their taking the helm, constantly encouraging me to take it easy and rest, praise the Lord, read the Bible and “just get some credit cards already” several people I’d long considered my closest friends and allies eventually abandoned me for greener pastures – literally. Four months of second-hand hardship in the form of my fretting over mounting debt exacerbated by unnecessary “conveniences” that amounted to nothing more than late fees and daily runs to Starbucks, was too much for some to bear. They “fixed” my books for me, and then booked.

    Case in point: The neurosurgeon who saved my life gets all of $50/month for his efforts while that monthly Amex finance charge swallows $56/month. Oh, and that unused LA Fitness membership? A measly $42/month. I fixed that and other boondoggles, but its not enough to stave off bankruptcy. I’ve heard that once I’m in the “system”, it won’t get any better. The operation was successful, but this patient is dead.

    Either way, Moore has done it again. And there’s a larger point. A society that’s not constantly fretting about how to pay for medical bills is a BETTER SOCIETY, and the “magic benefactor” can easily be a single-payer system that would cost less than we pay for health care now, and provide better quality service. Moore is a genius at finding real-world ways to illustrate his point of view. This is an excellent example.

    Praise the Lord, indeed: I’ve come up with a simple idea to clearly illustrate what universal health care – truly caring for your neighbor – is all about.

    “Slacker Uprising” has successfully created pre-election buzz, and to keep the ball rolling I suggest you add another dimension of punch to, repeat: demonstrate how free health care, and by extension, caring for your neighbor, works.

    Race, creed, color, political leanings, religious beliefs – whoever the person in need, true humanists will always put all and any differences aside, step up and deliver. The haves must always come to the aid of the have-nots; until their vote makes it law, the good people will do so voluntarily and without reserve.

    In these, the last few weeks leading to the most important election in modern times, I say post an online donation drive for me at, set up a counter to show the amount of donations made, the number of donators, and perhaps even a (voluntary) tally of which side of the fence they stand on.

    Let’s show those voters still on the fence how a new and improved nation will deliver on its promises, and how many are willing to lead by example, not just spout empty platitudes.

    I have little use for opulence, living large, and, least of all, waste of any kind, so what I don’t need to cover my bills I could, in turn, eventually pass on to the next person in need – hey, starting with the folks at Moorewatch.

    What say you? Yeah, or HELL, YEAH!!


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