December 2, 2021
Keep Talking, We’re Here
Data show that menopausal women experience mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts, but too many stay silent.
By Selene Yeager
This isn’t an easy topic to talk about. But it’s far too important a topic to not talk about. Studies and stories about suicide have been crossing my desk for the past several weeks, including this story in the BBC about Linda Salmon, 56, who took her own life last April after her anxiety worsened during the Covid pandemic.
Her husband, who had been with her for more than 40 years, came to believe that menopause was a “big contribution” to her mental state and that severe anxiety related to the pandemic had “pushed her over the edge”.
This story rattled me. An old friend of mine also took her life last March after her anxiety worsened during the pandemic. Only she knows the reasons why. But a year of hosting Hit Play Not Pause and creating content for Feisty Menopause has me wondering if the menopause transition could have played a role. The mood disruption can be severe. And it’s increasingly making the news.
In October, The Independent reported a research exclusive that found that nine in 10 women going through the menopausal transition experience mental health problems. One in ten experience suicidal thoughts.
More than a third of them said they hadn’t sought help for their symptoms. Eight out of 10 said they didn’t discuss their mental health issues with their partner or spouse.
The results came from a survey of 2,000 women ages 46 to 60 in the UK on a free women’s health app called Health & Her.
Another study published earlier this month in Health Europa reported that suicide rates for women ages 45 to 54, which coincides with when women commonly experience the menopausal transition, have risen 6 percent in the past 20 years. That particular study was conducted by the Menopause Experts Group, who also noted that women can be caught off guard by the sometimes extreme mental and emotional symptoms of the hormonal swings that come during the menopausal transition.
Finally, there was also a study in February of more than 290,000 women Veterans that found that menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) was associated with increased risk of suicide attempt and over 2-fold increased risk of death by suicide. As the researchers indicate, there are many complex factors here and this does not indicate causation. But if you’re seeking MHT for mood issues, it’s important information for you and your doctor to have.
You Are Not Alone
The upside of these dark reports is that we are finally talking about all of this and bringing it from the shadows into the daylight where we can address it without stigma and shame. Many members in our community have posted in our channels about depression, runaway anxiety, sudden feelings of rage, and dark, frightening thoughts.
We’re here for each other, offering support, advice from our own experiences, and if nothing else, a shoulder to lean on and an ear for venting. Women struggling in darkness have turned their moods around dramatically after learning that what they’re experiencing could be a reaction to a change in hormones or hormone therapy.
So this is a reminder that no matter what, you are part of a community of thousands of women who get it. We’re here to share our sorrows as well as our encouraging stories and athletic achievements. Together, we are never alone. So let’s keep the conversation going.
As supportive as this group is, if you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, get help. There are professionals available to you 24 hours a day.
If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line
If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.