1999 Clinical and Scientific Meeting

Dr M.G. King, PhD, M.Sc., M.A.P.S.

172 Albert Street,
Victoria 3356

Medical Diagnosis, Suicide and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Sociologist Emile Durkheim last century named "neurasthenia" as an important cause of suicide. Chronic fatigue syndrome (the 1990s label for neurasthenia) has been totally overlooked as a suicide risk factor in the 1990s. Professional, and particularly medical, training programs dealing with youth suicide prevention fail to mention CFS as a risk factor. Furthermore there is a recent trend in medical practice to replace the diagnosis of CFS with the label of clinical depression.

It is argued that fashions and trends in diagnosis do not change these three clinical facts:

  1. CFS continues to manifest as a disorder which is diagnostically different from depression, and CFS corresponds to a special class of increased suicide risk;
  2. If a treating doctor fails to diagnose CFS, then logically the suicide risk corresponding to CFS cannot be correctly anticipated and managed; and
  3. Suicide-awareness training programs which focus upon social factors rather than medical issues such as CFS will not prepare medical professionals to recognise the special suicide risks associated with CFS.


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