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Healthcare Practitioners Can Prevent Suicide

Preventing Suicide

The potential for suicide is there for adolescents and adults who suffer from POTS. While those with POTS don’t have higher proportions of mental health issues than the general population, the suffering that is a part of moderate to severe POTS can lead to thoughts about ending their suffering. In the general population, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-24. If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please seek immediate professional help, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or text HOPELINE at 741741 with the word "start" to get the assistance that you need.

Risk factors for suicide

  • Major physical illness
  • Sense of isolation
  • Hopelessness
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Lack of health care
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide or exposure to others who have died by suicide

Believe them. The BEST thing you can do for a person with POTS is BELIEVE THEM when they talk about their symptoms or the way they are feeling. POTS is an invisible illness – that means that you can’t look and see their level of suffering. When most people get sick, they have a fever, swollen glands, or runny nose that allows others to see that they are not feeling well. That is not the case for people living with invisible illnesses like POTS. What does it look like if a person is dizzy? Can you assess their level of fatigue without feeling it yourself? What does neuropathic pain look like to the outside observer? You can examine their legs, but there is no cut, no swelling or warm sensation, but the pain is real and can be severe. Believe them!

 Understanding Chronic Illness in Suicide Prevention

Warning signs for suicide that can be noticed in the healthcare office

  • Talking aboutSuicide picture
    • wanting to die
    • feelings of hopelessness
    • feeling trapped
    • unbearable pain
    • being a burden to others – “Nobody will miss me” or “You’ll be better off”
  • Feeling ashamed, humiliated, or desperate
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Aggression
  • Changes in sleeping patterns – too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite
  • Drop in grades at school
  • Self imposed isolation
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increased drug or alcohol use
  • Actively developing a plan – gathering pills or gaining access to a gun

Standing Up to POTS is leading the current research initiatives in this area.  Check out our publications on suicide in chronic invisible illness.

Understanding the Relationship Between Chronic Illness and Suicide