A few years ago, a family member took his life. It was devastating. I really couldn’t understand how someone was in that much pain to do that to themselves. However, during my low points of Lyme, I began to understand the depths of despair someone can experience. It became more apparent how, when people become hopeless, they feel that suicide is their only way out of the pain. Knowing there is hope and there is a way to overcome the pain is vital. Mental Health with Lyme is not spoken about enough and needs to be at the forefront of the conversation. New Jersey-based psychiatrist Dr. Robert Bransfield estimates that 1,200 suicides a year may be attributed to Lyme and associated diseases each year. See the doctor’s video here.
There are several reasons that suicide rates are becoming more prevalent with Lyme patients.
Not only are depression and anxiety common symptoms of chronic Lyme. But Dr. Robert Brandsfield explains that inflammation in the cortex causes sundial tendencies. I also believe the pain from chronic Lyme becomes unbearable. The pain is difficult to endure, especially if you do not see it going away. Also, the financial destruction it causes Lyme patents leaves people completely bankrupt. This economic distress means patients can not afford most Lyme treatments that are not covered by insurance. Besides, it isn’t easy to work and hold a job if you cannot get out of bed or do not have the energy to get through the day. Many Lyme patients lose their homes and jobs. Divorce is also prevalent among Lyme patients. The spouse’s financial burden and the lack of understanding about the disease take a toll on marriages. Finally, which I think is the most damaging is the mainstream medical community’s denial that Lyme doesn’t exist and that we are making up our symptoms. More than one doctor told me to see a psychologist since my lab results were “normal.” Going from doctor to doctor to find out what is wrong with you is hugely detrimental to your mental health.
Until our society acknowledges that chronic Lyme exists, proper testing exists, and Lyme treatments are effective and covered by insurance; we will continue to see a rise in suicide amongst Lyme patients. In the meantime, we need to bring mental health to the forefront of the conversation, give the tools, and hope to help chronic Lyme heal from this disease. If you are a Lyme warrior, I urge you to share your story as it may save one person and give them the hope to survive. If you don’t have Lyme but know someone who does, offer an ear or assistance, so they don’t feel alone or helpless. We can all do our part to eradicate this crisis.