People living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) can feel helplessness or depression at any stage of the disease. Changes in their lifestyle and abilities, the progression of symptoms or frustrations of living with a neurodegenerative disease can lead to the development of feelings that are difficult to manage for themselves and a care partner.
While some people with Parkinson’s have found ways to adapt to these feelings and move forward, these feelings can re-occur or worsen. There are ways caregivers and family member can help, along with 24-hour resources.
When asked, up to 30% of people with Parkinson’s have thought about suicide. Knowing these warning signs can help you recognize when to seek help. Suicide warning signs include:
- Talking or writing about harming or killing oneself. For example, saying, “What’s the point of living with PD?”
- Dramatic mood swings or sudden personality changes, for example losing interest in day-to-day activities. Keep in mind that sudden changes in medication may also cause these side effects. Talk with your doctor if you suspect this to be the case.
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and being trapped.
- Self-loathing or self-hatred.
- Saying goodbye through an unusual or unexpected visit or call.
- Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Both can be common for someone with Parkinson’s.
- Sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has decided to attempt suicide.
Any of these warning signs can indicate that someone is at risk of suicide. Creating a suicide plan or seeking out things that could be used in a suicide attempt, such as weapons, is a signal that they are at high risk. If this is the case, please immediately contact the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
How to Help
If you are concerned about a loved one who you suspect is suicidal, it can be helpful to have a direct conversation with them. Start with saying something like “You seem more hopeless lately ― are you having suicidal thoughts?” or “You recently said ‘life it pointless’ and it made me wonder if you are thinking about suicide.” It is important to listen and try not to immediately problem solve.
If you believe that a friend or family member may be thinking of suicide and are looking for help, contact a 24-hour suicide prevention helpline that can guide you on how to help your loved one, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Whether you call on your loved one’s behalf or have your loved one call, the Lifeline will be able to help assess the best next step and can even send someone out to assist. You or your loved one can even use Lifeline Chat, a service of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that connects you to the same counselors via web chat.
Another option is to contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357, which provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Lifeline provides 24-hour-a-day, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones and best practices for professionals.
Visit their website.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline
Confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Visit their website.
Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741
Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 mental health support via text message.
Visit their website.
Learn more about suicide prevention and depression by visiting the below Parkinson’s Foundation and external resources.
- Why Am I So Down? There Is Help
- Combatting Depression
- Podcast Episode 36: Depression in Parkinson's
- Fact Sheet: Depression and PD: A Non-Drug Treatment Option
- Study Finds Suicide Rate Higher Among Those With Neurological Disorders, Everyday Health
- How to Openly Discuss Suicide and Parkinson's
- How to Reduce the Risk of Suicide in People with Neurologic Conditions, Brain & Life (also referenced in this article)