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Disabil Health J. 2010 Apr;3(2):74-8. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2009.09.001. Epub 2009 Nov 3.

Understanding suicide and disability through three major disabling conditions: Intellectual disability, spinal cord injury, and multiple sclerosis.

Author information

1
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA. mjgiannini@yahoo.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Disability is not a category of disease but rather relates to the physical, sensory, cognitive, and/or mental disorders that substantially limit one or more major life activities. These functional limitations have been found to be predictive of suicide, with psychiatric comorbidities increasing the risk for suicide. Enormous gaps exist in the understanding of the relationship between disability and suicide.

OBJECTIVE:

We reviewed the current literature addressing the prevalence of and risk factors for suicide among persons with three major disabling conditions and identify priorities for future research.

METHODOLOGY:

We performed a literature review investigating the relationship between three major disabilities (intellectual disability, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis) and suicide. To ensure thorough evaluation of the available literature, we searched PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar with terms including "suicide," "disability," "intellectual disability," "spinal cord injury," "multiple sclerosis," and permutations thereof. By this method we evaluated 110 articles and included 21 in the review.

RESULTS:

Suicide rates are significantly higher among persons with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury than in the general population. A more nuanced picture of suicide rates and risk factors exists for the intellectual disability population, in which it appears that rates of suicide risk factors are higher than among the general population while suicide rates may be lower. The highest rates of suicide are reported among study populations of persons with multiple sclerosis, followed by persons with spinal cord injury, and then individuals with intellectual disability.

CONCLUSIONS:

Suicide among persons with disabilities is a complex and pressing public health concern. Urgent research priorities include (1) valid estimates of suicide rates among persons with disabilities by age cohort; (2) assessment of the predictive importance of suicide risk factors; and (3) determination of best practices in preventing suicide. Working toward these objectives will reduce the unacceptable burden of this preventable cause of death and help children and adults with disabilities to lead happier, healthier, and longer lives.

PMID:
21122771
DOI:
10.1016/j.dhjo.2009.09.001
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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