Fibromyalgia patients who regularly visit their physicians are much less likely to attempt suicide than those who do not, according to a new Vanderbilt University Medical Center study published in Arthritis Care & Research.
Patients who did not attempt suicide were at the doctor an average of 50 hours per year versus less than one hour per year for the group who committed self-harm, according to lead author Lindsey McKernan, PhD, assistant professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.
“Fifty hours versus one hour – that’s a staggering difference,” McKernan said. “They might have been at one appointment in a year and this disorder, fibro-myalgia, takes a lot to manage. It takes a lot of engagement.”
Doctors already know that fibromyalgia patients are 10 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population but this study is the first to successfully apply machine learning to reliably detect suicide risk in fibromyalgia patients and also to explain that risk in clinically meaningful ways, according to senior author Colin Walsh, MD, MA, assistant professor of Biomedical Informatics.
“The study suggests a possible path for intervention,” Walsh said. “Perhaps we can connect those individuals to an outpatient provider, or providers, to improve their care and reduce their suicide risk. We also might see patients at-risk establish meaningful relationships with providers whom they can contact in times of crisis.”
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Thank you to VUMC Reporter for the article.