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Elevated Suicide Risk in People with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is known as a condition that is not life threatening but the suicide potential is not considered.

How many lives have to be taken?  How many families destroyed before the necessary attention is paid to this life-changing condition?

In the UK, information about how many people with fibromyalgia have been diagnosed is not collected and a recent question by an MP about how many were receiving benefits was deemed too expensive to collate.

How can decisions about the need for adequate treatment centres and education of medical professionals be made when the scale of the problem is not accurately known? In the short term the data has to be collected and resources made available for use of the current options for treatment. In the long term there needs to be in-depth research into how best to manage fibromyalgia whilst also exploring the cause and therefore a potential cure.

Fibromyalgia Association UK (www.fmauk.org) is acutely aware of the difficulties faced by people with fibromyalgia.  This often starts with no one understanding what their many symptoms are pointing to and a feeling of not being believed by friends, family, employers and even the medical professionals they are turning to.

When a diagnosis is eventually reached there are still cases where people with fibromyalgia are told there is nothing that can be done and that there is no cure but, as a consolation, that it is not life threatening. The syndrome is mainly known for constant pain all over the body, but also sleep problems, fatigue, migraines, stiffness, confusion and memory problems, irritable bowel and irritable bladder, to name a few.

Although a team approach with many types of treatment has been shown to have the best results, this is not widely available. Our recent survey showed that nearly 50% of people with fibromyalgia felt their treatment was poor, leaving them in constant pain and with unexplained fatigue.

It is no wonder under these circumstances that some people feel that there is only one way of solving their problem – to end their life. A coroner’s report in Shropshire cited fibromyalgia as the reason for a suicide earlier this year and a member of the fibromyalgia support group of the Isle of Wight was found at the foot of cliffs in July.  To put these cases into context, in the general population worldwide about 1.8% commit suicide and 2.7% attempt suicide. A study in Spain found that 16.7% of the people with fibromyalgia studied had attempted suicide between one and three times.  In Denmark research showed that the increase of suicide risk for people with fibromyalgia was 10.5 times that of the general population.

In the meantime the message to health professionals is to provide people with fibromyalgia with the best pain control. However it is because of the drudgery of dealing with the many other fibromyalgia symptoms as well as the pain that scientists believe people with fibromyalgia are more likely to seek suicide as a relief. Therefore clinical support for the fibromyalgia-related symptoms people find most troubling is also key. 

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