Conference Coverage

‘Striking’ rate of mental health comorbidities in epilepsy


AT AES 2022

Underdiagnosed, undertreated

Commenting on the research, Elizabeth Donner, MD, director of the comprehensive epilepsy program, Hospital for Sick Children, and associate professor, department of pediatrics, University of Toronto, said a “key point” from the study is that the suicidality rate among teens with epilepsy exceeds that of children not living with epilepsy.

“We are significantly underdiagnosing and undertreating the mental health comorbidities in epilepsy,” said Dr. Donner. “Epilepsy is a brain disease and so are mental health disorders, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they coexist in individuals with epilepsy.”

The new results contribute to what is already known about the significant mortality rates among persons with epilepsy, said Dr. Donner. She referred to a 2018 study that showed that people with epilepsy were 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide.

Other research has shown that people with epilepsy are 10 times more likely to die by drowning, mostly in the bathtub, said Dr. Donner.

“You would think that we’re educating these people about risks related to their epilepsy, but either the messages don’t get through, or they don’t know how to keep themselves safe,” she said.

“This needs to be seen in a bigger picture, and the bigger picture is we need to recognize comorbid mental health issues; we need to address them once recognized; and then we need to counsel and support people to live safely with their epilepsy.

The study received funding from the Epilepsy Study Consortium, Finding a Cure for Epilepsy and Seizures (FACES) and other related foundations, UCB, Pfizer, Eisai, Lundbeck, and Sunovion. Mr. Greenwood and Dr. Donner report no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article first appeared on


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