Chloe Pearson shares her personal story about her Uncles battle with cancer. As she tells us about his own struggle she shares some very valuable resources on mental health and how to identify early warning signs.
Guest Post: Reducing the Risk of Suicide in People Battling Cancer
When my uncle was diagnosed with cancer, a few years ago, I watched one of my favorite family members slip away. Not just because he lost weight from the chemotherapy, but because he seemed to have lost much of his spirit, too. He’d always taught me how to find the little joys in life, but it was clear to me that he was unable to do that for himself anymore. I encouraged him to try meditation and yoga, but ultimately it was the guidance of a licensed therapist who helped my uncle sort through his feelings of devastation and powerlessness. I’m forever grateful to his therapist for giving my uncle the strength to keep fighting, and for helping him find his way back to happiness.
The risk of suicide among people battling cancer is very real. From pain to unpleasant side effects from chemotherapy and other treatments, as well as the impacts of cancer on a person’s mental health, battling cancer is an all-encompassing effort. While it’s common for people fighting cancer to become depressed and anxious, treating the whole person is the key to reducing the risk of suicide.
Mental Health Counseling Aids Long-Term Recovery
Mental health counseling is a valuable component of a cancer treatment plan. While treating the disease that afflicts the body improves survival rates, the toll that cancer can take on a person’s mental health can have damaging impacts on both short and long-term survival. In cases of aggressive disease with minimal long-term survival rates, patients suffering from cancer sometimes consider suicide as a way to end their suffering. They may also contemplate suicide if they feel as though their disease makes them a burden on the people they care about.
It’s a common belief that a positive attitude and optimistic outlook helps people battle cancer successfully. Yet fighting for one’s life against an aggressive disease makes it difficult to maintain a positive attitude, particularly when enduring treatments with unpleasant side effects. Mental health counseling helps people battling cancer cope with the unpleasant aspects of treatment and cultivates the mental well-being that provides resilience in the worst of circumstances.
Avoiding Addiction to Reduce Suicide Risk
When addiction rears its ugly head while you’re already in the midst of the fight of your life, your reliance on pain medication or other substances may seem inconsequential. But a healthy body and mind is one of the best weapons in your arsenal in your battle against cancer. Addiction increases the risk of suicide particularly for people who are also suffering from another illness, be it a mental illness such as depression or anxiety or a disease such as cancer.
Managing pain is an important facet of treating cancer, but clinicians must be mindful of the potential for addiction in their patients. Careful prescribing habits, patient compliance, and open communication between physician, patient, and therapists is the best approach for effective pain management while minimizing the risk of addiction.
Support Systems Can Help Identify Warning Signs and Boost Mental Health
In addition to having a positive mental attitude, people suffering from cancer benefit greatly from strong support systems consisting of family and friends as well as healthcare providers. These support systems not only help to boost the patient’s self-esteem and help them to maintain a positive outlook, but they can also help to identify potential warning signs of depression and suicidal thoughts that may not be obvious to clinicians.
Paying attention to the psychological elements of battling cancer such as anxiety, depression, and stress is important, yet surprisingly many people battling cancer who have had suicidal thoughts don’t show any other obvious signs of depression. That’s why the family support system is so valuable; physicians see their patients in shorter durations and different settings in which the warning signs may not be easily identified. Family members who notice even subtle changes can be a lifesaver when they take action to ensure that their loved one’s health providers are aware of subtle changes in mood and personality that may indicate depression or suicidal ideation.
Battling a life-threatening disease is often the biggest challenge anyone may face in their lifetime. As people battling cancer become acutely aware of their own mortality while suffering tremendous pain and other symptoms, it’s not uncommon for them to contemplate suicide. By treating the whole person and ensuring that a strong support system is in place, the risk of suicide can be reduced among people battling cancer.
Image via Pixabay by PDPics
You can find Chloe at http://consumerhealthlabs.com/