Suicide risks in people with epilepsy

19th September 2018

We recently wrote a post detailing how people with epilepsy are more likely to experience depression. As a result of this, and other factors, this also means that people with epilepsy are also a higher risk of suicide. Epilepsy can affect a person’s health and wellbeing and it’s important that mental health is also monitored.

Causes of suicidal thoughts in people with epilepsy

There are a variety of factors that can result in a person with epilepsy having suicidal thoughts, including:

  • If the seizures affect the mood centres in the brain leading to depression
  • Some anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) may lead to depression as a side effect
  • Living with epilepsy and its associated challenges may lead to depression or suicidal thoughts

Of course, there are other factors that can cause a person with epilepsy to experience depression or suicidal thoughts that may or may not be a direct result of the epilepsy itself, including:

  • Mental health disorders, such as anxiety (which can be a side effect of some medications)
  • A history of trauma or abuse
  • Major illness
  • Stress
  • Lack of support
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide

Although these may not seem inherently connected to epilepsy, it’s possible that many of them could be connected indirectly. Stress, for example, could be heightened due to living with epilepsy and also as a result of losing a job or other personal circumstances.

If suicidal thoughts occur…

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts it’s critical that you seek help as soon as possible. You might start with a friend or family member that you trust to ensure you are not burdened and alone with your thoughts. It’s of paramount importance that you talk to your health care team or doctor who may be able to help find the root cause of your depression and thoughts. Talking about your thoughts is one of the best ways to start working through them.

You should also:

  • Make a plan to manage your suicidal thoughts (e.g. visit a family member or friend)
  • Research any medications you are prescribed as it may list depression as a side effect
  • Talk to others who have had a similar experience (e.g. support groups)

If someone you know is experiencing (or you suspect they are) suicidal thoughts:

  • Make sure they know you are there for them
  • Be open when you talk about it, don’t make it seem like something to be ashamed of by skirting around the subject
  • Listen and allow them to speak and tell you how they feel
  • Don’t judge
  • Don’t allow them to swear you to secrecy, you may need to seek help from professionals

National Epilepsy Training can help

If you have epilepsy and are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can get in contact with us for support and guidance on what to do. Our experts will provide tailored advice and help you to seek the right course of action to improve your mental health, call us on 01706 373075 or email admin@nationalepilepsytraining.co.uk.

You can also contact Samaritans on 116 123 who operate a 24 hour hotline to help people experiencing suicidal thoughts.