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June 11, 2001

Behavior

Question from Ft. Hood, Texas, USA:

I am wondering if you have any information relating to diabetes and suicide. My 32 year old nephew, who developed type 1 diabetes about the age of three or four, committed suicide about a week ago. I know that low or high, back and forth sugar levels over many years can cause lots of damage to other organs. He was slowly going blind and was having trouble with circulation in his legs. I am not sure what other problems he was developing. Obviously he was also suffering from depression. I would like to know more about the depression and diabetes. His death has been a very big shock to our entire family. This is so out of his character and he has left a daughter behind. Any information that you could give me to help me better understand why he would come to the decision of suicide would greatly help me. I feel very confused and have lots of questions as to why. I would like to be able to share the information with my sister his mother and maybe bring her some answers and understanding and closure also.

Answer:

I am so very sorry for your family’s loss. Suicide leaves survivors with multiple mixed feelings — anger, sadness, frustration, and most of all tremendous questions.

Why? That is a question that nobody can answer with certainty. I have counseled families whose loved ones have cut their own lives short. In each case, the family feels guilty that they never saw it coming. The truth is that we cannot ever read another soul’s intention.

Chronic diseases like lupus, diabetes, sickle cell, etc. take a toll on folks. Each individual’s coping skills are different. That means that what might push one person to die might inspire another one to live.

Please don’t blame yourself or your nephew. It is normal to be angry and sad at the same time.

It is true that people with chronic diseases have a more pronounced battle with depression. The symptoms of depression may include loss of appetite or profound increase in appetite, difficulty sleeping, or excessive sleeping, withdrawal from friends and family, difficulty concentrating, loss of pleasure in things which formerly were pleasurable, hopelessness, helplessness, suicidal ideation and feelings of worthlessness. If these symptoms last for two or more weeks, medical attention should be sought immediately. Depression can be treated with success using a combination of medications and talk therapy.

Please do not ignore the symptoms of depression.

CMB