Suicide and Diabetes: What Caregivers Should Know

By GabbyPA Latest Reply 2013-06-23 13:42:23 -0500
Started 2013-06-08 16:57:31 -0500

I will admit it, these kinds of thoughts can cross my mind. They are quickly dismissed in my case, but I have seen some close to me struggle with the thought of the relief that ending all would bring. Thankfully, no one I know who has diabetes has done so. But it is always an alarm when I hear certain words or see certain actions. We have to watch it for ourselves, but also for those we love and care for with this or any chronic illness.

I know from experience that arguing doesn't help. You have to find a balance between helping and enabling, and it's a fine line. The article I found is very comprehensive and packed with great information. I hope you enjoy it.

By: Everyday Health

When emotional health and diabetes collide, suicide is a real risk. Learn how to help your loved ones avoid this tragic choice.
By Madeline Vann, MPH
Medically reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD

As many as one in five people with diabetes think about suicide, some on a daily basis. People considering suicide don't always advertise their plans, but those with diabetes might be doing so by neglecting their diabetes management. A statewide study of patients in Texas revealed that depression and diabetes led to poor diabetes control. And although no in-depth research into diabetes and suicide exists, the study authors suggest that one sign of worsening emotional health might be giving up on the hard work of controlling diabetes.

Also of great concern, according to a study published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, are data that suggest that people with diabetes might go so far as to commit insulin suicide, intentionally overdosing with the very medication that can help them achieve and maintain blood sugar control.

The connection point between diabetes and suicide is depression. About 16 percent of the general population experience depression, but the percentage is nearly doubled among those with diabetes. To better understand depression and diabetes, family medicine expert David Katerndahl, MD, and colleagues at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio looked at diabetes control and depression symptoms among 106 patients over the course of five years.

Though their research did not address suicide risk specifically, Dr. Katerndahl said, "I looked at the results from our question about how frequently patients thought about suicide over the past two weeks and found that 20 percent had thought about suicide and 6 percent thought about it daily." The results of the study show a link between depression, poor compliance with diabetes treatment, and a lower qualify of life .

"Diabetes and depression is a toxic combination," said psychologist Susan Guzman, PhD, director of clinical services for the Diabetes Behavioral Institute in San Diego. "Mortality rates in people who have both are about 2.5 times the rates in people with either or neither."

Decades of Diabetes Leading to Depression Read more:

28 replies

"Sue" 2013-06-14 13:50:41 -0500 Report

I think that it is a personal struggle that all of us with diabetes and depression deal with and that it will bring us down . But ,it is how we deal , or handle it for our -selves that really matters . For me it does get me down when my sugar levels keep getting out of wack . It really frustrates me to no-end that with me doing what I suppose to be doing and the dr.s changing my insulin around all the time that I can't keep it under control. And I 'm dealing with nerve damage to my feet and hands . I always knew that with diabetes is something that I control . Because it runs in my family on both side (my moms side and my dads side as well).I'm going to be tossing the thought of depression and the ups and downs as well as the positives and the negatives . We are given no more than God knows what we can handle with our illness. If we don't take it to a higher power than we only have our-selves to be angry ,or to blame . We need to learn how to ask for help. I hope that this is making sense to you people out there with diabetes.

Bun10 2013-06-10 17:59:14 -0500 Report

I see my diabetes as a challenge and being competitive I plan on winning this challenge. There is nothing tied to my ankle even if my feet might be a bit numb they still work to get my walks in on a regular basis. Thank God for my family who loves me, needs me and supports me. Thank you God for walking this journey with me. Thanks to this group who can understand me like no other. So many positives in my life. I have lots of things I enjoy doing. I'm not giving those up because of diabetes. They spur me on. Stay active. Find what makes you happy and enjoy it.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-06-10 09:35:11 -0500 Report

HI Gabby,

I am so glad you brought up this important topic. The connection between diabetes and depression has been well-documented. And so many people who are living with diabetes are not getting the help they need when they experience symptoms of depression.

When those thougts of helplessness and hopelessness keep coming up in yourself, or when you see the signs in someone else, it is so important to reach out for help. Depression is treatable.

Having ongoing emotional support is a key component of diabetic self-care. I wish more doctors asked their patients about their emotional state and recommended some form of ongoing counseling to those who need it.

I encourage DC members to reach out for help. Let your doctor know if you are feeling depressed and have thoughts about harming yourself. Talk to a friend or family member. Get in touch with a mental health professional.

And stay connected with your friends right here. Don't go through this alone.


katcot2152 2013-06-23 13:22:09 -0500 Report

I have bouts of depression, but have had them long before I was diagnosed with diabetes. I have to say, the diabetes has never impacted me negatively. Perhaps it is because I have lived with chronic pain, or had hung onto life by a thread, when a heart/lung machine kept me alive for 7 1/2 hours while doctors replaced my damaged valves (an experience I will never, ever forget!). Or maybe because I did survive a suicide attempt many years ago. Or experienced a pain that is so undescribable when I had a total hip replacement that you can't compare it to anything else you have ever experienced. When the doctor told me I had type 2 diabetes, my reaction was , "oh well, I guess we are going to have to work a little harder to find the secret to losing weight, because any diet I have tried has not worked and I have been trying for decades!"

My only concern was that I already was on a heart-healthy diet, so how is the diabetes going to fit in with that diet, especially with the Holidays approaching ? I asked my doctor to refer me to a nutritionist at the diabetes center. The nutritionist and I worked out a goal for the Holidays, "to keep my weight stable during the Holidays and not worry about losing weight - just try to maintain the weight I had then. I reached that goal. Then after the Holidays, we set a new goal, to lose the weight by adjusting and fine-tuning my diet to accommodate both the heart healthy aspect and the diabetic aspect. One major difference, the heart healthy diet recommended 5 fruits a day. The diabetic diet conflicted with that because it is way too much carbs,. So she adjusted it to 2 fruits a day.. She fine-tuned the diets so that, lo and behold, the weight started to drop. I had lost 25 pounds. But then, overnight 13 of those pounds came back on. My doctor did some testing, thinking I may have Cushings Syndrome. After doing further testing, we found that was not the case. Now, the weight is starting to drop again and have lost all but 6 pounds of the weight I had gained back.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that you think you have troubles until something or someone else comes along, adding to those troubles. I began to think that after my open heart surgery, nothing would ever be so bad as to top that. But I am sure there are other things out there that could top it - I just hope I don't have to find out what that is. It certainly hasn't been diabetes, for me. So now when I get depressed, I tell myself to look around, because I have a lot to be thankful for. Going through the surgery, I focused on my new granddaughter and that helped me fight for my life.

I just celebrated my 2 year anniversary since the heart surgery and have another thing to be grateful for - my other son and is wife have blessed me with my first grandson. Now I have one of each! And everything in the world to be grateful for! I am NOT going to let diabetes, or any other medical problem i may have ever get in the way of my grandchildren. I have fought for my life, not once, but twice…the first time, it was my own children that I focused on to make me well again; the second time it was their children that helped me fight for life! That was enough for me to rethink what my life is all about - each time I look at my own children, and see their accomplishments, and then I look at my grandchildren - the circle of life continues…a little thing like diabetes is not going to get the best of me!!!!

GabbyPA 2013-06-10 11:37:03 -0500 Report

I have been dealing with this some from my mom and it breaks my heart. She's gone through a lot this past 6 months and she feels like giving up. It's hard to deal with as a daughter to a mother. She wants to do things by herself. I just keep trying.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2013-06-10 22:23:20 -0500 Report

Gabby, it so hard when someone you care about is experiencing depression. It leaves you feeling so helpless, as you watch them isolating and sufferieng alone. But just being there, reminding her that you love her, encouraging her to interact, to get out, can help. Even if she doesn't respond, she knows she is loved. I suspect she won't let you go to the doctor with her, it might be worth trying. So sorry to hear this, my friend.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2013-06-10 19:30:16 -0500 Report

Understand the position you are in, Gabby. My in-laws would only let me help so much and no more. Since it is/was their choice how to deal with their health all I could do was help with what they allowed. I would smile on the outside, but scream inside as she chose high carb foods She would talk with me about how easy it would be to OD on insulin and he would get the blame, since "everybody knew he always prepped the dose".
Although Alzheimer's or complications of Diabetes eventual took her from us, I still have discussions with some of my residents as they are debating continuing fighting their battle or battles with disease or just calling it quits.
As hard as it from the side of the caregiver, it is as hard being the primary battler. Learned this first hand during the MRSA battle. There were days not fighting won over fighting. Luckily the meds kept fighting when I wasn't really up to it. It wasn't that I wanted to die, just I wasn't sure the fight to live was worth the battle. Then, within a month after, to be faced with "You might have a cancer that could kill you in less than 6 months." Well, let's just say in the 6 to 7 weeks before I could have the surgery to determine if I needed to figure out if I needed to have another life or death battle I never decided to fight it or not. So glad I did not have to make that decision. "No cancer found" were among the most wonderful words I have ever heard. Some days I try for a few minutes to think what I would have chosen if the words would have been "You have…" I still don't know what my choice would have been, chemo and radiation for such a slim chance of survival or no treatment and just let it take me out. Then I stop wondering and just get on with living.

JoleneAL 2013-06-10 08:10:28 -0500 Report

Considering the new health care system that is being phased in to place in this country, I doubt at my age (53) I will be cared for as well as a 20 year old diabetic as I grow older. I'm going to end up stuck in a nursing home somewhere to die instead of being treated the best way possible. And as this country descends into what is happening in Europe with patients who cost too much, I fear diabetics will be just one class ignored due to expense. Having dealt with the military medical system in the past, I foresee worse under Obamacare. We are going to be numberss and our lives regulated to how much we cost the government. Suicide rates in all medial areas will increase. I will do my best to live healthy as long as possible, but once I'm stuck on Obamacare, I know I surely will die. Its a sad thought.

Anna K
Anna K 2013-06-22 16:59:20 -0500 Report

this country already doesn't want to help 20yr olds. If they don't have private insurance or make a ton of money they are screwed, Ive been looking ahead for my 16yrold who will be out of high school in 2 years…don't know how we will manage at that time.

hairbear68 2013-06-10 00:36:42 -0500 Report

I've given this a lot of though with our strange bodies in stead of death we might go blind r lose our feet or legs but what if you just go into a diabete coma hospital cost wood skyrock and I hate needles as it is too be plugged into machines and cost my family money that they don't have just make me feel like more of a burden then i'm already am fighting for insurce and making sure I help any way I can with the bill is all I can do too not lose my mind hate too say this but I wood die for my mom before I become more of a burden on her the rest of my family not so supportive unless they want some thing money mostly so I just live one day at a time what happen happens even with my ssugar running over 600 so far just getting a little headach but only telling that too this site becoz mom doesn't need the stress she 62 and hip replace too plastic in her feet and 2 stroke that I know of so I just keep things to myself most of the time

Stuart1966 2013-06-09 22:17:01 -0500 Report

Can suicide be reasonable decision (sic. for those with a terminal illness)? For those with a severe or imminent loss of quality of life? If so, the simplistic argument this article contends loses massive credibility…

GabbyPA 2013-06-10 11:29:22 -0500 Report

This is a hard topic. I joke and tell my step daughter to shoot me before I get too old to enjoy life or before I turn into a mean old lady. I guess I mostly say that because I have seen what age does to our minds and our bodies. Most of us have. My focus in that is more for them to not have to deal with my failing body. It's a lot of work I would not wish on anyone.

Would I rather not be a burden to my family? You bet. But there is a huge difference between taking me off life support and me not taking care of myself because I'm too lazy or don't care.

I don't pretend to understand the complexities of depression. I do believe that it is over diagnosed and a doctor would rather give most people a pill instead of helping them actually work through things, giving them the tools to fight it instead of a pill to be enslaved to it. It's the easy way. And let's face it, our culture is focused on the easy way much more now that ever.

katcot2152 2013-06-23 13:42:23 -0500 Report

I had attempted suicide many years ago - long before
i ever was diagnosed with diabetes. I look at what I have been through since that attempt - chronic pain from fibromyalgia
(a part of the reason i had attempted to take my life), a total hip replacement, having to have 2 valves replaced with mechanical valves, and now diabetes type 2. Funny thing, the diabetes diagnosis didn't phase me - having cheated death not once, but twice, a little thing like diabetes wasn't going to get to me. The suicide attempt, I focused on my 4 children to help me fight for my life. The 7 1/2 hours hanging onto life by a thread -a heart/lung machine was the only thing keeping me alive, I focused on my new little granddaughter to help me fight for life.

I have had bouts of chronic depression, but is isn't the diabetes that causes it - it is all of the other stresses in my life - the social injustices. But I just need to look at my 4 children, their wives, my granddaughter, and now my grandson, and I am grateful for these blessings…I look at others around me who are not as blessed as I, that have lost a child, when it is the parents who should go first, at the starving children in third world countries…if you think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, take the time to smell the flowers, or the fresh cut grass, or look into the eyes of an innocent baby, or at a dog who was only minutes away from death in high kill shelters, or an abused animal or child, and you will see that diabetes isn't so bad, AND it certainly is not a DEATH SENTENCE!!!!! Look around and see the beauty in this world and you will find that something of little consequence as diabetes is not the end all…you can live a relatively normal life, just follow the diet, your doctor's advice, and try to keep the sugar levels down…diabetes a death sentence? NO, just a mere inconvenience and nuisance.

Stuart1966 2013-06-10 13:29:46 -0500 Report

Hello Gabby:

And again there is a HUGE difference between DIA-CIDE (suicide by diabetes approach) and the active conscious and informed choice to end ones life.

I accept your belief in the "easy way" a core cultural norm. I vehemently reject the articles fundamental contentions and beliefs… respectfully!

The word depression is pathetically overused. The concept of DIABETES DISTRESS by Dr. Polonsky (et al.) is thankfully gaining ground replacing the obscenely simplistic and dead wrong depression blanket.

Drugs will not affect nor change the very real problems most of us encounter, and will face. No insulin, no blood test will alter the fires which do arise, regardless of our serious hyper-vigilance!

When they occur NONE of us are too lazy! None of us ever stopped caring…
We are broken by the "failure" in front of us. Efforts which achieve nothing…

We can do absolutely nothing wrong, make no diabetic mistakes (on any level) AND still fail anyway. What do we do then…?

There is no difference between life support and insulin. Testing, thats a different channel…

Jesse's derby
Jesse's derby 2013-06-11 22:43:42 -0500 Report

I have endured depression all my life. Been on every pill. Tried every group, therapist, etc. My mother's suicide is partially part of it, but I had my own problems prior to her death. Having said all of that, suicide has always been an option in my life. It has set me apart and believe me, that does not help! I do believe suicide is a choice we can make when we feel it is necessary to end our pain, Now, having said that, we must be vigilant in our own preservation of our health. With insulin, the care of our doctors, the people we choose to surround ourselves…and, yes, the occasional milk shake! We can choose how we live. We are also able to choose how we die. Please be sure it is not too early. Every one who posts here helps everyone else. That is not a small thing. Your life matters. I know it is difficult to remember that when things get too bleak. But please try!!!!

Anna K
Anna K 2013-06-09 19:33:18 -0500 Report

my 16 yr old struggles w this daily… very difficult to watch a once fun loving child, plumet into depression severe enough she has cut her self…she's under a drs care and on medication, which helps, but somedays nothing helps…pray for her please

Stuart1966 2013-06-10 13:38:02 -0500 Report

Hello Anna:

You could not pay me enough to be a teen again. Respectfully, it certainly could be diabetes specifically, but likely there are other serious pieces in play too. We are diabetics, but that is never all we are…

While i dislike major pieces of William Polansky's book have you ever gotten a copy of "Diabetes Burnout"? It may (may?) offer her help none but a fellow diabetic will get. The local library many used bookstores/services will have it.


Jesse's derby
Jesse's derby 2013-06-11 22:51:14 -0500 Report

I love that you said, "We are diabetics, but that is never all we are…"! And thank you for the book recommendation. I will look it up on my library's site now and order it. (P.S. for people who don't know, there is a thing called "interlibrary loan". You can get materials from anywhere thru this program!) I use the library a lot now to save money to put into my insulin et al fund!

Stuart1966 2013-06-10 13:37:54 -0500 Report

What do you feel she is having the largest problems with? Will she agree?

Anna K
Anna K 2013-06-21 21:18:29 -0500 Report

I replied earlier but its not showing as posted. She is soooo tired of monitoring, the diet changes, dealing w school when she's sick most days. Her diabetes is an hour by hour struggle. And you are correct, there are some other issues. She goes to a large high school and doesn't know anyone else there that faces her same issues. She has lots of absences due to diabetic illness and or the depression which in turn leaves her dealing w sarcastic teachers, even though we have the legal forms to protect her. Not to mention normal teen issues with boyfriends, regular drama and of course hormones. And yes she agrees these factors all contribute, but I do have to say she is doing well at the present! School is out for summer, so some pressure is off for now and she is on meds for the depression as well as Novalog, Lantus, Metformin and supplemental vitamins.

Anna K
Anna K 2013-06-21 20:58:42 -0500 Report

she just gets soooo tired of the monitoring, diet changes we've made, feeling like she's alone, she goes to a large high school and doesn't know anyone else there that has the same issues as herself. And you are correct, there are other underlying factors, there has been some bullying issues, lot of absences and lack of teacher understanding due to diabetes related illness, and I do have to say she is doing much better at the present. I worry about relapses because her diabetic battles are hour by hour, and of course teen hormones, and then there are the normal boyfriends and break ups, etc. And these are issues she agrees that contributes to her depression. Thank goodness school is out for summer and she seems content.

Cathy Simpson
Cathy Simpson 2013-06-09 12:44:37 -0500 Report

I had that feeling a while back when I was told that I was loosing my insurance that helps pay for my insulin. I figured what's the point.. If I couldn't get my insulin I was dead anyways. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband that wouldn't let me feel that way for to long before saying that he didn't care if we had to buy the insulin completely out of pocket and be in the poor house, I was going to get what I needed. I think it helps alot to have a strong support team to help you through those hard times..

GabbyPA 2013-06-10 11:32:42 -0500 Report

Finding friends, family, faith and support will fight off so much of this. Having those relationships who understand that tough love is needed sometimes is precious and we who are blessed with relationships like that will make it through. Sometimes we don't see that we have these special people in our life because we drown in self pity, but I bet they are there. We have to want it as badly as they want to give it. Then it works wonders.

Stuart1966 2013-06-10 13:47:52 -0500 Report

Hello gabby:

I know nothing of "faith", but as one who has diabetic concrete "tied" to my ankles, don't care what you name it, rightly/wrongly, this stuff WILL kill any of us if/when it can.

Rainbows and kittens diabetes ain't.

Flavor does not matter, we are all true heros when we dare fight. Its damned brutal stuff… hand to hand, 24-7-365 for the rest of our lives. It ain't pretty sister… wish it could be

Jesse's derby
Jesse's derby 2013-06-11 22:56:55 -0500 Report

Oh! goodness! Stuart! "Rainbows and kittens" it ain't! May I use that phrase for other uses? What a hoot! For all the folks out there who complain about little shit,,,,,,my response will be, "Rainbows and kittens it ain't!"…Thanks for the laugh!!!!

Stuart1966 2013-06-10 13:47:46 -0500 Report

Hello gabby:

I know nothing of "faith", but as one who has diabetic concrete "tied" to my ankles, don't care what you name it, rightly/wrongly, this stuff WILL kill any of us if/when it can.

Rainbows and kittens diabetes ain't.

Flavor does not matter, we are all true heros when we dare fight. Its damned brutal stuff… hand to hand, 24-7-365 for the rest of our lives. It ain't pretty sister… wish it could be