December 10, 2019

Teens with Epilepsy More Likely to Discuss Suicide Online

Teens with epilepsy were more than twice as likely as adults to talk about suicide on the internet, an analysis of 222,000 online posts showed.

A total of 3,200 of 41,000 posts (8%) by teens with epilepsy discussed suicide, compared with 5,800 of 181,000 posts (3%) by adults with epilepsy, reported Tatiana Falcone, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues, at the American Epilepsy Society annual meeting.

Almost two-thirds — 63% — of posts by teens indicated they were afraid of the unknown, compared with 12% of adults. Importantly, 77% of teen posts about suicide were on message boards or web sites devoted to epilepsy topics and only 19% were on social media, suggesting teens want anonymity when they look for information, the researchers noted.

“Parents often fear overwhelming their child by providing too much information about the characteristics of epilepsy, but if teens don’t get answers they’ll go looking online, and sometimes that information is not correct or is incomplete,” Falcone said in a statement. “It’s important that teens know there is always hope, that knowledge is power and that the more they know, the better they can take care of themselves and their epilepsy.”

The analysis also suggests teens may worry when they don’t understand new epilepsy symptoms or experience changes in seizure patterns, and this worry may perpetuate stress and contribute to depression or suicidal thoughts, she noted.

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