Alissa Willis, MD: Identifying Patients With MS at Risk for Suicide


Despite high rates of depression in MS, picking up on signs that an individual may be at risk for suicide can be difficult. The staff neurologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Mellen Center discussed some of the red flags.

“There are clues patients can give you in your interactions with them. For example, a patient changing the way that they dress, no longer taking care of themselves, or showing up late or missing appointments.”

At the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC), May 28-June 1, in Seattle, Washington, a multidisciplinary panel provided an overview of what signs, red flags, and signals that neurologists and health care providers should be on the lookout for in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) that can reveal individuals at risk for suicide.

Patients with MS face high rates of comorbid depression, with some estimates suggesting that almost half of these patients will experience major depressive disorder at some point after their diagnosis. One of the physicians involved in the CMSC panel was M. Alissa Willis, MD, a staff neurologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Mellen Center for MS. Willis provided some insight into what physicians can do to help pick up on the signals that patients may be going through this.

In a conversation with NeurologyLive®, she discussed how neurologists and health care providers can pick up on what may appear to be subtle changes in patient behavior—such as missing appointments, change in dress—and other hints that can reveal the struggles that patients may be going through. She provided some examples of red flags to be aware of in an effort to increase awareness of this often avoided challenge in comprehensive MS care.

For more coverage of CMSC 2019, click here.

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