Suicide Risks and Type 1 Diabetes
Editor’s Note: If you are having suicidal thoughts and need immediate help, text the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline by texting “NAMI” to 741741. If you need ongoing mental health support from providers who understand diabetes, the American Diabetes Association has created a list of accredited mental health providers who can help.
Everyone who lives with type 1 diabetes (T1D) knows that chronic disease can take a toll on your mental wellbeing, as well as physical health. We’re constantly monitoring, calculating, dosing and troubleshooting, and we never get a day off. Feelings of frustration, exhaustion and even hopelessness can build up, and if they go unaddressed they potentially can lead to more serious mental health concerns.
A 2014 review of 20 studies that looked at the relationship between T1D and suicide, found that people with T1D also have a higher risk of suicide than the general population. 
Are you (or is someone you know) at risk?
Depression is the most common mental health condition associated with suicide and suicidal ideation, or thoughts about suicide, is a symptom of Major Depressive Disorder. We know that people with diabetes are more likely to experience symptoms of depression than people who do not have diabetes. In fact, research shows that people living with T1D are almost twice as likely to develop Major Depressive Disorder compared to the general population .
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or thoughts of hurting yourself, let your health care team know right away. If you do not have a current care team you feel you can rely on, there are mental health care providers who have experience with diabetes who can help. Symptoms of depression include:
- Depressed mood
- Loss of energy
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
- Difficulty focusing and making decisions
- Loss of appetite, or eating too much
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Thoughts of suicide
What are the warning signs of suicide?
People’s behavior can often give clues that they maybe thinking about suicide. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, warning signs may include:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
If you or someone you know shows any of these warning signs, do not ignore them. Seek help immediately.
How to find help
If you think you or someone you know might be contemplating suicide, help is available. Talk to your healthcare team or contact the following help lines in your area.
Reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1(800) 273-8255. The Lifeline also includes resources on Twitter (@800273TALK). In a crisis, you can also text the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline by texting “NAMI” to 741741. For longer term support, consult the American Diabetes Association’s Mental Health Provider directory.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention lists 24-hour crisis centers across the country.
The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand lists several nationwide resources, including Lifeline ( call 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 if you’re calling from Auckland). The site also lists SPARX, an online mental health resource developed by the University of Auckland in the form of an online fantasy game. SPARX.org.nz is targeted toward adolescents and young adults and is available across the country.
There is an organization in Australia called Lifeline, which is reachable on this national number: 13 11 14. Suicideprevention.com.au is an online mental health resource.
If you need mental health resources in the United Kingdom, the NHS has several listings that include Samaritans (call 116 123 or contact the service via email) and PAPYRUS, a volunteer-run suicide service for adolescents.
Al Instituto Hispanoamericano de Suicidologia, A.C 5255 46313300.
Todo Mejora email and chat online help
135 (free call from Capital and Gran Buenos Aires) l (011) 5275-1135 (from all the country). Online help available here.
01 8000 113 113 online chat and webpage, Una opción en línea.
Facebook suicide support
 JOSLIN DIABETES CENTER: ARE DEPRESSION AND DIABETES LINKED?
 POMPILI, MAURIZIO, FORTE, ALBERTO, LESTER, DAVID, ERBUTO, DENISE, ROVEDI, FABIANA, INNAMORATI, MARCO. SUICIDE RISK IN TYPE 1 DIABETES MELLITUS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW. JOURNAL OF PSYCHOSOMATIC RESEARCH, 76 (2014) 352–360
 WILLIAMS, GEOFFREY C., FREEDMAN, ZACHARY R., DECI, EDWARD L. SUPPORTING AUTONOMY TO MOTIVATE PATIENTS WITH DIABETES FOR GLUCOSE CONTROL. DIABETES CARE, 1998, VOLUME 21(10) P.1644-51
 WEBMD: RECOGNIZE THE WARNING SIGNS OF SUICIDE