Understanding suicidal ideation and behaviour in individuals with chronic pain

Our Professor Karen Rodham explains the background, findings and future directions for her recent published review.

Why did we conduct our review?

Some research suggests that those who live with chronic pain are at higher risk of engaging in suicidal behaviour.

Much work has explored how different psychological factors might influence suicidal behaviour in helpful as well as unhelpful ways. Similarly much work has looked at how different psychological factors might help as well as hinder those who are trying to cope with chronic pain. Very little work has compared both pain and suicidal behaviour research areas.

Professor Karen Rodham

What did we focus on?

We wanted to explore this gap and look closely at the research in the chronic pain and suicidal behaviour fields to see if there were any common factors on which researchers could focus their attention in future studies.

How did we conduct our searches?

Our search of the research published between 2008 and 2018 produced 21,392 possible articles. After we had screened the papers for their relevance we identified 52 to include in our review. While we were reviewing them a further 17 papers were identified. This meant that we looked in depth at total of 69 papers.

Table with the word research written on with people sat around working together.

What were our findings?

We found that there were three promising areas that cut across both the suicide and the chronic pain research fields:

  1. Future Orientation: How people feel about their expected and imagined future
  2. Mental Imagery: How certain kinds of images in our mind’s eye can impact on how we feel.
  3. Psychological Flexibility: How our ability to accept our situation can impact on how we feel.

How you could use this research:

We suggest that greater cross over between the chronic pain and suicide research fields is really important if we are to increase our understanding of why some people with chronic pain are at greater risk of engaging in suicidal behaviour. These three areas would be a good place to start.

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