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If You Suffer From Chronic Pain and Have Thought About Suicide as A Way Out – You are Not Alone and There is Hope for a Better Life

Learn ways to manage suicide risk factors and 6 strategies for improving your quality of life.

Kelly Norris MA, LPC – Kelly Norris Counseling & Psychotherapy, LLC

If you or a loved one is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call Colorado Crisis Services at (844) 493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255. In case of imminent danger or emergency, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Living with chronic pain can really wear on a person emotionally and may even feel unbearable. It is easy to become frustrated, and for that frustration to develop into despair, hopelessness, and depression. It may not be surprising, then, that chronic pain sufferers may be at an increased risk of having suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Those suffering from chronic pain often experience co-occurring problems which are also associated with increased risk for suicide. These include depression, anxiety, sleep problems, social isolation, unemployment, and financial problems.

Chronic pain can cause significant disruption and impact almost every aspect of a person’s life. It’s not just the pain itself that chronic pain sufferers have to deal with, but also the secondary effects of the pain or illness on things like sleep, mood, concentration, mobility, energy, stress levels, and so on. On top of that, there could be unwanted side effects from medications and other medical interventions intended to treat pain and medical conditions. The impact on a person’s life can be significant and extensive, impacting just about every area of life, including (but not limited to): work, school, relationships, hobbies, exercise, and recreation.

Chronic pain can become so debilitating, that it may no longer be possible to work or continue with school. This major life change can be experienced as a deep and painful loss and can bring about difficult feelings such as grief, sadness, shame, worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness. Financial insecurity can add a great deal of stress on top of all of this, and increased dependence on others may lead to feeling like a burden on those who provide support. Unemployment, depression, hopelessness, worthlessness, and feeling like a burden are all risk factors for suicidality. It is possible to have a meaningful and purposeful life with a disability. Consider what is most important to you, your values and passions, and find a way to feasibly incorporate these things into your life.  For example, my mom loved her rescue dogs and cared greatly about animal welfare. She was in severe, chronic pain, and was barely able to move on her own. Though her hands were nearly paralyzed, she was still able to go on Facebook, using her mobile phone, and help an animal rescue organization connect pets with foster families and forever homes. This was something that was very near to her heart, and it allowed her to make a positive impact, all from bed.

When you don’t feel well so much of the time, it can be hard to socialize and maintain relationships. It can feel lonely if others don’t seem to understand what you are going through, especially when you have an “invisible” illness instead of an obvious disability. You may also start to feel a burden on other people. These things may prompt you to withdraw from loved ones and become isolated. However, it is extremely important to maintain a strong support network, surrounding yourself with at least a few loved ones who are understanding and supportive. We lean on other people to help us get through difficult times. We tend to be happier and more emotionally resilient when we have quality relationships, and we may even feel better when we are in the company of those we love. On the other hand, a limited or lacking support system may increase our risk for depression and suicidal thoughts/actions. Joining a support group can help to build your social support network while meeting others who understand what it is like to live with chronic pain. You can search the internet for online support communities that offer zoom teleconference meetings. One example is

It is possible to create a life that is worth living, even with chronic pain. There are many things that you can do to better manage, cope with and even reduce your pain. Listed below are just a few suggestions. This is not medical advice nor is it a substitute for professional medical or psychiatric advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read in this article. In case of mental health or medical emergency, dial 911 immediately.

  • Mindfulness Meditation: Research suggests that practicing mindfulness meditation can significantly reduce the intensity of physical pain. This relief is often immediate and enduring. You can find more information, and a guided 10-minute meditation for pain management, by visiting this post from Headspace. The Headspace mobile app offers a great introductory module for beginners to mindfulness meditation. This kind of meditation can bring about improvements in other areas besides physical pain, such as mood, relaxation, sleep and concentration, and it can help to reduce anxiety, depression, anger and other difficult emotions. Check out the list of Resources at the end of this article for more information and recommendations, including a free online mindfulness course offered by Monash University.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is another technique with many possible benefits, including pain relief, stress/anxiety reduction, and improved sleep. There are tons of guided practices that you can find through an online search. Be sure to discuss with your doctor before starting this practice.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Do at least one thing a day that brings joy or pleasure. Read or listen to a book, enjoy some music, bask in the sun, write a thank-you note – whatever works for you. Make time to relax. Practice deep breathing or another relaxation technique that helps you to ease tension in your body and mind. Releasing tension in your body, as much as you are able, can help to alleviate some of the pain. If you are interested in learning relaxation techniques for pain management, check out the Resources section below.
  • Utilize Your Support Network: Create a support system of people you love and trust, whom you can turn to and depend on to be there for you. Utilize your supports. If you are feeling sad, lonely, depressed, frustrated, hopeless […] whatever you’re feeling, if you need support, reach out! Even if you don’t quite feel comfortable opening up, or you’re afraid that you are going to inconvenience someone or scare them away, or you just feel like being alone. Don’t let fears and assumptions get in the way of getting the support that you need. The people that love you want to be there for you. If you don’t have much of a support network, build one. Join a chronic pain support group – You Are Not Alone. It can be beneficial to share with and learn from others dealing with chronic pain, in a safe and mutually supportive environment. Consider engaging in an online support community, such as
  • Keep a Gratitude Journal or Positive Journal: Keep a daily journal or log that focuses on positive things from that day (eg, what went well, what did you accomplish, what made you feel happy or loved) and/or things that you are grateful for. Write at least three things per day.Individual Therapy with a Licensed Mental Health Professional: This can be a source of support and a great way to learn effective skills for coping with chronic pain, as well as any emotional distress or life disruptions that go along with it. If you are feeling depressed or have thought about suicide, tell your doctor and get connected with a therapist as soon as possible. Please know that there is hope for a better future.

If you or a loved one is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call Colorado Crisis Services at (844) 493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255. In case of imminent danger or emergency, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Resources for Understanding & Managing Chronic Pain