Thoughts about self-harm or suicide

Many losses and disappointments can be caused by M.E.. Health, career, income, security, relationships, self-esteem can all be lost through unexpected disability. Even if sufferers adjust their expectations far below what they could previously have hoped for many are frustrated by the unpredictable nature of M.E.   Some people with M.E. commit suicide.   Professor Hooper observes (Hooper et al. 2003):

Suicide rates are very high, not necessarily because patients are psychiatrically disturbed, but because the unavoidable isolation and the physical suffering are simply unbearable without adequate support.

Graph  Thoughts about self-harm or suicide

45% of the M.E. group who have received counselling rated this item to indicate that they had explored it in counselling, 17 % rated this 5 and over. Those who want counselling chose a range values of how useful they think exploring self harm and suicide would be, and for some it appears to be an issue they might wish to work with. Some of the MS group found this issue useful to explore. Donoghue and Siegel (2000 p.64) remark on exacerbations of invisible chronic illness:

Suicidal thoughts are frequent, terrifying companions of exacerbations. The despair stems from fatigue, from pain, from fear, from limits to one’s lifestyle.

Respondents with M.E. wrote:

>I considered suicide. I thought that if my life was going to be like it was; totally dependent on others, and not able to do anything; job, looking after myself, having a life, not seeing friends or no social life, etc. etc., and I would be such a burden to everybody - it would not be a life at all.

>I felt I needed to see a counsellor to help me accept my limitations. After six years of suffering, I did go through a period of depression and did not think it was worth living. I love life and felt so limited.

Scott (1991 p.14) remarks that loneliness can be a contributory factor to suicide and that this is, 'sometimes brought about by physical illness…', and that frustration is, 'the background of many attempted suicides', and that physical illness can also be implicated in this. He also remarks that with frustration, 'The aim is not to end life but rather to escape' (p.15). Suicidal thoughts can be difficult to address and this might be so for some people with M.E., particularly if they have experienced their suffering being dismissed. Scott notes that, 'The very mention of the word 'suicide' if the subject has not been broached by someone else may be difficult' (p.40). Some counsellors mention suicide when contracting and this could be an opportunity to 'name' suicide as a subject open for exploration in the work.


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