Chronic Migraine Associated with Suicide

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May 22, 2012

Last month, in Nagpur, India, The Times of India reported that a 29-year-old man leapt to his death from his fifth floor balcony, ending his agonizing battle with chronic headaches.

This is the not the only news item in recent months to associate migraines or chronic headaches with suicide.  Just last month, Junior Seau, a retired NFL linebacker, committed suicide with a gunshot to the chest.  In an interview with ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Seau’s neighbor – ESPN soccer analyst and former Major League Soccer star Taylor Twellman – shared that Seau had complained of headaches from multiple concussions while playing football.   It is unknown whether at the time of his death Seau was receiving any migraine treatment.

Naomi Breslau of Michigan State University at East Lansing led a study, published in the March edition of Headache journal, which found that severe headache and chronic migraine sufferers are more likely to attempt suicide.  Approximately 500 of nearly 1200 adult subjects followed in the study were migraine sufferers, and 151 experienced severe headaches. The remaining group were severe-headache and migraine free.  Over the two-year period, both the migraine and severe headache groups experienced similar rates, 9 and 10 percent respectively, of attempted suicide.

The findings don’t provide an explanation for why chronic migraine or severe headache conditions are associated with greater incidents of attempted suicide, but the researchers suspect that brain chemicals such as serotonin may be involved and that an imbalance in chemicals may come into play. Additional risk factors for those attempting suicide included pain severity, depression and gender.

The Michigan State University scientists agreed that people with severe headaches or migraines should seek professional treatment.  Nobody should have to struggle with the debilitating effects of chronic pain on their own, which could lead to unnecessary devastating outcomes… especially when so many migraine treatment options are available.

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