Simple Behavioral Changes Predict Suicide Risk in Multiple Sclerosis

JUNE 01, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick
neurology, psychiatry, multiple sclerosis, depression, major depressive disorder, suicide, Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Center, CMSC 2016A change in appetite may not be a huge red flag in most people, but in patients with multiple sclerosis, it could have a larger meaning.

Major depressive disorders and suicide are not exactly uncommon in those with multiple sclerosis. In fact, one study found that these patients have a 7.5 times higher risk of taking their lives than the general population. Unfortunately, only about half of people with the central nervous system disease are actually screened for such risks.

Aliza Ben-Zacharia, MSc, from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, aimed to identify key predictors that could help clinicians identify at-risk patients. She presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Center (CMSC) in National Harbor, Maryland. A total of 34 people with multiple sclerosis – 71% female, 73.5% Caucasian, 56% married – were recruited from an urban clinical practice. The participants were described as “educated” and more than half lived with a partner or family. Predictors of suicide were evaluated using the Beck Depression Inventory II (BD-II) and Beck Depression Inventory Fast Screen (BDI-FS).

The results revealed that suicide prevalence was 11.76%. This risk was associated with participants who were not Caucasian, not married, and lived by themselves. Key determinants of suicide among this population were depression, sadness, change in appetite, and loss of pleasure.

Furthermore, there was a link found between more multiple sclerosis relapses and suicidal ideation. However, there was not a connection between disability and suicidal ideation.

“Early screening with the BDI-FS is critical in clinical practice,” Ben-Zacharia wrote. She believes that this research warrants further investigation to uncover how disability and relapses play a role in suicide risk.

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