Suicide Risk and Bladder Cancer: Facts for Concerned Friends and Family

by Milton Hayes

New research shows men with advanced bladder cancer are more likely to commit suicide than men with other types of cancer. If someone you loves has bladder cancer, you may be worried about this risk. To help you support your friend and assess any possible suicide risks, here are five facts you need to know:

1. Older Men Have a Higher Risk of Suicide than the General Population

Suicide affects men more often than women, and men over the age of 85 have a particularly high rate of suicide—it was 28.2 per 100,000 in 2009 and 46.4 per 100,000 in 2000. In contrast, men in the 55-85 year age range have a slightly lower risk of suicide than their younger counterparts. If your friend is over the age of 85, he has an elevated suicide risk, and you should keep that in mind.

However, you need to pay attention to more than just your friend's age.

2. A History of Mental Illness Can Increase One's Likelihood of Suicide

Of all suicide victims—whether they have bladder cancer or not—90 percent have a history of mental illness. If your friend or family member has a history of mental illness, he may need special help as he journeys through the heartache of bladder cancer.

3. Getting Used to a Bag Can Be Challenging

Dealing with any type of cancer can be disheartening, but when you have bladder cancer in particular, you need to deal with special challenges. Many people with bladder cancer have their bladders removed and their urine diverted to bags at their sides.

Dealing with a bag like this can be embarrassing. It can even bring up latent feelings of shame. People in this situation need as much help and support as possible on physical and emotional levels. Offer your friend support around this sensitive situation.

4. There Is Hope for People with Bladder Cancer

If your friend begins to feel depressed over any issue related to his bladder cancer, remind him there is hope. In some cases, after a decade or two, many people who have suffered from bladder cancer have absolutely no symptoms left. It can help to keep these hopeful thoughts in mind.

5. People with Bladder Cancer May Need Help from a Support Group

Feelings of depression when one has cancer are common. If you are having a hard time supporting your friend on your own or if you notice your friend slipping into depression, encourage him or her to join a support group for people with bladder cancer or a support group for people with cancer and depression. For more information, contact Leslie Scott Dr.