When sick brain and hopelessness meet: Some aspects of suicidality in the neurological patient

Alessandra Costanza, Andrea Amerio, Andrea Aguglia, Andrea Escelsior, Gianluca Serafini, Isabella Berardelli, Maurizio Pompili, Mario Amore

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


Neurological diseases expose individuals to a higher risk of suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior, including completed suicides and suicide attempts. They also represent a paradigmatic arena to study the etiopathogenic mechanisms underlying suicidality because they are emblematic of the heterogeneity and complexity of mutual interrelationships characterizing this issue. On the one hand, neurological diseases imply strictly biological impairments that are postulated to be the basis of vulnerability to suicide or result in the need for treatments for which a suicidal risk has been hypothesized. On the other hand, they question some subjective experiences of neurological patients, up to near existential positions. Often, in fact, they are accompanied by severe hopelessness. The latter may originate in, particularly for the most severe neurological diseases, the absence of curative treatments, unpredictable disease progression that leads to acute relapses or chronicity, a decrease in autonomy or selfidentity, progressive social isolation, a sense of becoming useless, and perception of feeling stigmatized. This may ultimately cause a slip into experiencing an absurd condition. At the confluence of neurobiology and hopelessness, frequent psychiatric comorbidities may play a primary role. To conclude, neurological patients require special attention from clinicians in form of openly verbalizing and exploring the suicidal thematic, inquiring about protective and risk factors, and promptly initiating both a psychopharmacological treatment and, where possible, psychological support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-263
Number of pages7
JournalCNS and Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Hopelessness
  • Neurologic diseases
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide
  • Suicide attempt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology

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