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  1. Are Sickle Cell Warriors at Higher Risk of Depression — or Even Suicide?

    January 27, 2015 by Andrea


    They're called sickle cell warriors for a reason.

    They're tough, resilient fighters of their disease. But because they are so often seen as such strong people, it's easy to overlook their inner struggles, which can lead to devastating outcomes -- such as suicide. Patients with severe medical conditions ... may be at increased risk for suicide, " states the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "This is primarily due to psychological states such as hopelessness, helplessness, and desire for control over death." 

    It's not simply the having of the chronic illness that causes someone to think of ending his or her life, it's the quality of life that that person is actually living. For patients who live with SCD that are generally able to maintain good health and have infrequent pain episodes, the risk of suicide is lower. On the other hand, patients who experience higher occurrences of crises are at increased risk to contemplate -- and/or carry out -- such an act. According to the 2009 article, "Depression, Suicidal Ideation, and Attempts in Black Patients With Sickle Cell Disease" published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, "Patients with the most clinically severe SCD pain also exhibited the greatest prevalence of depression. Of the symptoms associated with depression, suicidality presents as the most lethal." 

    As one may assume, education, socioeconomic status, access to medical treatment, and access to weapons or drugs can also play a part in whether or not someone may consider suicide. For example, as stated in the Journal of the National Medical Association article, some studies estimated that sickle cell patients experienced a lifetime rate of depression at 50%. In the Journal's particular sample, however, they recorded a much lower rate. "We estimated our prevalence of depression ... as ranging from 22% to 36% ... Our sample appeared to be more educated, high functioning (60% employed), and more supported (most in long-term, high-quality relationships) than many of the samples reviewed."

    This is why continuing to raise awareness -- not only for the disease itself, but also for the depression it can cause -- is essential. While it's true that different people may show different warning signs when it comes to depression, here is a list of some things to keep an eye out for: 

    • Persistent sadness
    • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
    • Decreased energy
    • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
    • And more

    If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression or is contemplating suicide, seek the help of a doctor or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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