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1.  Cross-National Analysis of the Associations among Mental Disorders and Suicidal Behavior: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(8):e1000123.
Using data from over 100,000 individuals in 21 countries participating in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys, Matthew Nock and colleagues investigate which mental health disorders increase the odds of experiencing suicidal thoughts and actual suicide attempts, and how these relationships differ across developed and developing countries.
Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide. Mental disorders are among the strongest predictors of suicide; however, little is known about which disorders are uniquely predictive of suicidal behavior, the extent to which disorders predict suicide attempts beyond their association with suicidal thoughts, and whether these associations are similar across developed and developing countries. This study was designed to test each of these questions with a focus on nonfatal suicide attempts.
Methods and Findings
Data on the lifetime presence and age-of-onset of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) mental disorders and nonfatal suicidal behaviors were collected via structured face-to-face interviews with 108,664 respondents from 21 countries participating in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. The results show that each lifetime disorder examined significantly predicts the subsequent first onset of suicide attempt (odds ratios [ORs] = 2.9–8.9). After controlling for comorbidity, these associations decreased substantially (ORs = 1.5–5.6) but remained significant in most cases. Overall, mental disorders were equally predictive in developed and developing countries, with a key difference being that the strongest predictors of suicide attempts in developed countries were mood disorders, whereas in developing countries impulse-control, substance use, and post-traumatic stress disorders were most predictive. Disaggregation of the associations between mental disorders and nonfatal suicide attempts showed that these associations are largely due to disorders predicting the onset of suicidal thoughts rather than predicting progression from thoughts to attempts. In the few instances where mental disorders predicted the transition from suicidal thoughts to attempts, the significant disorders are characterized by anxiety and poor impulse-control. The limitations of this study include the use of retrospective self-reports of lifetime occurrence and age-of-onset of mental disorders and suicidal behaviors, as well as the narrow focus on mental disorders as predictors of nonfatal suicidal behaviors, each of which must be addressed in future studies.
This study found that a wide range of mental disorders increased the odds of experiencing suicide ideation. However, after controlling for psychiatric comorbidity, only disorders characterized by anxiety and poor impulse-control predict which people with suicide ideation act on such thoughts. These findings provide a more fine-grained understanding of the associations between mental disorders and subsequent suicidal behavior than previously available and indicate that mental disorders predict suicidal behaviors similarly in both developed and developing countries. Future research is needed to delineate the mechanisms through which people come to think about suicide and subsequently progress from ideation to attempts.
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide. Every 40 seconds, someone somewhere commits suicide. Over a year, this adds up to about 1 million self-inflicted deaths. In the USA, for example, where suicide is the 11th leading cause of death, more than 30,000 people commit suicide every year. The figures for nonfatal suicidal behavior (suicidal thoughts or ideation, suicide planning, and suicide attempts) are even more shocking. Globally, suicide attempts, for example, are estimated to be 20 times as frequent as completed suicides. Risk factors for nonfatal suicidal behaviors and for suicide include depression and other mental disorders, alcohol or drug abuse, stressful life events, a family history of suicide, and having a friend or relative commit suicide. Importantly, nonfatal suicidal behaviors are powerful predictors of subsequent suicide deaths so individuals who talk about killing themselves must always be taken seriously and given as much help as possible by friends, relatives, and mental-health professionals.
Why Was This Study Done?
Experts believe that it might be possible to find ways to decrease suicide rates by answering three questions. First, which individual mental disorders are predictive of nonfatal suicidal behaviors? Although previous studies have reported that virtually all mental disorders are associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviors, people often have two or more mental disorders (“comorbidity”), so many of these associations may reflect the effects of only a few disorders. Second, do some mental disorders predict suicidal ideation whereas others predict who will act on these thoughts? Finally, are the associations between mental disorders and suicidal behavior similar in developed countries (where most studies have been done) and in developing countries? By answering these questions, it should be possible to improve the screening, clinical risk assessment, and treatment of suicide around the world. Thus, in this study, the researchers undertake a cross-national analysis of the associations among mental disorders (as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition [DSM-IV]) and nonfatal suicidal behaviors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected and analyzed data on the lifetime presence and age-of-onset of mental disorders and of nonfatal suicidal behaviors in structured interviews with nearly 110,000 participants from 21 countries (part of the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative). The lifetime presence of each of the 16 disorders considered (mood disorders such as depression; anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]; impulse-control disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; and substance misuse) predicted first suicide attempts in both developed and developing countries. However, the increased risk of a suicide attempt associated with each disorder varied. So, for example, in developed countries, after controlling for comorbid mental disorders, major depression increased the risk of a suicide attempt 3-fold but drug abuse/dependency increased the risk only 2-fold. Similarly, although the strongest predictors of suicide attempts in developed countries were mood disorders, in developing countries the strongest predictors were impulse-control disorders, substance misuse disorders, and PTSD. Other analyses indicate that mental disorders were generally more predictive of the onset of suicidal thoughts than of suicide plans and attempts, but that anxiety and poor impulse-control disorders were the strongest predictors of suicide attempts in both developed and developing countries.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although this study has several limitations—for example, it relies on retrospective self-reports by study participants—its findings nevertheless provide a more detailed understanding of the associations between mental disorders and subsequent suicidal behaviors than previously available. In particular, its findings reveal that a wide range of individual mental disorders increase the chances of an individual thinking about suicide in both developed and developing countries and provide new information about the mental disorders that predict which people with suicidal ideas will act on such thoughts. However, the findings also show that only half of people who have seriously considered killing themselves have a mental disorder. Thus although future suicide prevention efforts should include a focus on screening and treating mental disorders, ways must also be found to identify the many people without mental disorders who are at risk of suicidal behaviors.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information about suicide in the US: statistics and prevention
The UK National Health Service provides information about suicide, including statistics about suicide in the UK and links to other resources
The World Health Organization provides global statistics about suicide and information on suicide prevention
MedlinePlus provides links to further information and advice about suicide and about mental health (in English and Spanish)
Further details about the World Mental Health Survey Initiative and about DSM-IV are available
PMCID: PMC2717212  PMID: 19668361
2.  Suicide-related discussions with depressed primary care patients in the USA: gender and quality gaps. A mixed methods analysis 
BMJ Open  2011;1(2):e000198.
To characterise suicide-risk discussions in depressed primary-care patients.
Secondary analysis of recordings and self reports by physicians and patients. Descriptive statistics of depression and suicide-related discussion, with qualitative extraction of disclosure, enquiry and physician response.
12 primary-care clinics between July 2003 and March 2005.
48 primary-care physicians and 1776 adult patients.
Presence of depression or suicide-related discussions during the encounter; patient and physician demographics; depression symptom severity and suicide ideation as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ9); physician's decision-making style as measured by the Medical Outcomes Study Participatory Decision-Making Scale; support for autonomy as measured by the Health Care Climate Questionnaire; trust in their physician as measured by the Primary Care Assessment Survey; physician response to suicide-related enquiry or disclosure.
Of the 1776 encounters, 128 involved patients scoring >14 on the PHQ9. These patients were seen by 43 of the 48 physicians. Suicide ideation was endorsed by 59% (n=75). Depression was discussed in 52% of the encounters (n=66). Suicide-related discussion occurred in only 11% (n=13) of encounters. 92% (n=12) of the suicide discussions occurred with patients scoring <2 on PHQ9 item 9. Suicide was discussed in only one encounter with a male. Variation in elicitation and response styles demonstrated preferred and discouraged interviewing strategies.
Suicide ideation is present in a significant proportion of depressed primary care patients but rarely discussed. Men, who carry the highest risk for suicide, are unlikely to disclose their ideation or be asked about it. Patient-centred communication and positive healthcare climate do not appear to increase the likelihood of suicide related discussion. Physicians should be encouraged to ask about suicide ideation in their depressed patients and, when disclosure occurs, facilitate discussion and develop targeted treatment plans.
Article summary
Article focus
Determine frequency of suicide-related discussions in routine primary-care encounters with depressed patients along with demographic predictors.
Identify process variables that may or may not influence the likelihood that suicide will be discussed in primary care.
Analyse interview style related to enquiring about suicide and responding to patient responses to enquiry as well as unsolicited disclosure.
Key messages
Suicide is addressed in a small minority of encounters with depressed patients in primary care.
Suicide is rarely discussed with depressed male patients who are at high risk for suicide.
Physician enquiries related to suicide are often made with patients who have the lowest levels of ideation, and the enquiries themselves are often biased to elicit a denial of ideation.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The study involved a large number of primary care physicians and patients representing real-world patient encounters.
It is unknown if the topic of suicide had been discussed in previous encounters and how such discussion influenced the present encounter.
We were unable to identify significant predictors of suicide-related discussion, yet we were able to demonstrate that some likely candidates such as participatory decision-making style and trust were not sufficient.
PMCID: PMC3191598  PMID: 22021884
3.  Physicians' Characteristics Associated with Exploring Suicide Risk among Patients with Depression: A French Panel Survey of General Practitioners 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e80797.
General practitioners (GPs) have a key role to play in suicide prevention, but the rates at which they question patients with depression about suicidal thoughts and plans are rather low. Little is known about GPs' characteristics associated with such inquiries. Our objectives were to describe GPs' attitudes, perceived barriers, and self-reported practices in this questioning of these patients and to analyze factors associated with these practices.
This cross-sectional survey was conducted among participants in a panel of randomly selected French GPs (1249/1431 participated: 87.3%). GPs were interviewed with a standardized questionnaire covering their professional and personal characteristics, attitudes, and practices in exploring the suicide risk of their patients with depression. We built a suicide inquiry score by summing the responses to 5 items and used a multiple linear regression analysis to explore the characteristics associated with this score.
Principal Findings
Most GPs reported inquiring about the presence of suicidal ideation often or very often; less than 30% reported that they frequently explored signs of a specific suicide plan. The mean suicide inquiry score was 12.4 (SD, 2.9; range, 5–20). False ideas, such as thinking that patients who report suicidal ideas do not often commit suicide, were frequent (42.3%). Previous continuing medical education on suicide, participation in a formal mental health network, and patients who committed suicide in the past 5 years were associated with a higher score. Reluctance to question patients about suicide and perception of insufficient skill were associated with a lower score.
This study showed great variability in French GPs' practices in exploring suicide risk in patients with depression. Interventions aiming at improving GPs' initial training and continuing medical education in suicide and/or depression, and their collaboration with mental health specialists should be developed, and their impacts assessed.
PMCID: PMC3858232  PMID: 24339883
4.  Screening for Suicide Ideation among Older Primary Care Patients 
Older adults have high rates of suicide and typically seek care in primary medical practices. Older adults often do not directly or spontaneously report thoughts of suicide, which can impede suicide prevention efforts. Therefore, the use of additional approaches to suicide risk detection is needed, including the use of screening tools. The objective of this study was to assess whether brief screens for depression have acceptable operating characteristics in identifying suicide ideation among older primary care patients and to examine potential sex differences in the screen’s accuracy.
We administered the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), which includes a 5-item GDS subscale (GDS-SI) designed to screen for suicide ideation, to a cross-sectional cohort of 626 primary care patients (235 men, 391 women) 65 years of age or older in the Northeastern United States. We assessed presence of suicide ideation with items from the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression and the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.
Patients expressing suicide ideation (n = 69) scored higher on the GDS and GDS-SI than those who did not (n = 557). A GDS cut score of 4 maximized sensitivity (0.754) and specificity (0.815), producing an area under the curve of 0.844 (P < .001) and positive and negative predictive values of 0.335 and 0.964, respectively. Optimal cut scores were 5 for men and 3 for women. A GDS-SI cut score of 1 was optimal for the total sample and for both men and women.
The GDS and GDS-SI accurately identify older patients with suicide ideation. Research is needed to examine their acceptability and barriers to routine use in primary care.
PMCID: PMC3138552  PMID: 20207936
Suicide Ideation; Death Ideation; Geriatrics; Depression Screening
Depression and anxiety  2006;23(1):11-16.
The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether panic disorder (PD) and suicidal ideation are associated in an inner-city primary care clinic and whether this association remains significant after controlling for commonly co-occurring psychiatric disorders. We surveyed 2,043 patients attending a primary care clinic using the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD) Patient Health Questionnaire, a screening instrument that yields provisional diagnoses of selected psychiatric disorders. We estimated the prevalence of current suicidal ideation and of common psychiatric disorders including panic disorder and major depression. A provisional diagnosis of current PD was received by 127 patients (6.2%). After adjusting for potential confounders (age, gender, major depressive disorder [MDD], generalized anxiety disorder, and substance use disorders), patients with PD were about twice as likely to present with current suicidal ideation, as compared to those without PD (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.84; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.06–3.18; P = .03). After adjusting for PD and the above-mentioned potential confounders, patients with MDD had a sevenfold increase in the odds of suicidal ideation, as compared to those without MDD (AOR = 7.00; 95% CI: 4.42–11.08; P < .0001). Primary care patients with PD are at high risk for suicidal ideation, and patients with PD and co-occurring MDD are at especially high risk. PD patients in primary care thus should be assessed routinely for suicidal ideation and depression.
PMCID: PMC3631348  PMID: 16245304
depression; major depressive disorder; primary care; panic disorder; suicide; suicidal ideation; minority populations
6.  A cross-sectional survey of prevalence and correlates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among prisoners in New South Wales, Australia 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:14.
We aimed to estimate the prevalence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt among prisoners in New South Wales, Australia; and, among prisoners reporting suicidal ideation, to identify factors associated with suicide attempt.
A cross-sectional design was used. Participants were a random, stratified sample of 996 inmates who completed a telephone survey. The estimated population prevalence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt were calculated and differences by sex and Aboriginality were tested using χ2 tests. Correlates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt were tested using logistic regression.
One-third of inmates reported lifetime suicidal ideation and one-fifth had attempted suicide. Women and Aboriginal participants were significantly more likely than men and non-Aboriginal participants, respectively, to report attempting suicide. Correlates of suicidal ideation included violent offending, traumatic brain injury, depression, self-harm, and psychiatric hospitalisation. Univariate correlates of suicide attempt among ideators were childhood out-of-home care, parental incarceration and psychiatric hospitalization; however, none of these remained significant in a multivariate model.
Suicidal ideation and attempts are highly prevalent among prisoners compared to the general community. Assessment of suicide risk is a critical task for mental health clinicians in prisons. Attention should be given to ensuring assessments are gender- and culturally sensitive. Indicators of mental illness may not be accurate predictors of suicide attempt. Indicators of childhood trauma appear to be particularly relevant to risk of suicide attempt among prisoners and should be given attention as part of risk assessments.
PMCID: PMC3276432  PMID: 22225627
7.  The prevalence of suicidal ideation identified by the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale in postpartum women in primary care: findings from the RESPOND trial 
1 Abstract
1.1 Background
Suicide is a leading cause of perinatal maternal deaths in industrialised countries but there has been little research to investigate prevalence or correlates of postpartum suicidality. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is widely used in primary and maternity services to screen for perinatal depressive disorders, and includes a question on suicidal ideation (question 10). We aimed to investigate the prevalence, persistence and correlates of suicidal thoughts in postpartum women in the context of a randomised controlled trial of treatments for postnatal depression.
1.2 Methods
Women in primary care were sent postal questionnaires at 6 weeks postpartum to screen for postnatal depression before recruitment into an RCT. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was used to screen for postnatal depression and in those with high levels of symptoms, a home visit with a standardised psychiatric interview was carried out using the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised version (CIS-R). Other socio-demographic and clinical variables were measured, including functioning (SF12) and quality of the marital relationship (GRIMS). Women who entered the trial were followed up for 18 weeks.
1.3 Results
9% of 4,150 women who completed the EPDS question relating to suicidal ideation reported some suicidal ideation (including hardly ever); 4% reported that the thought of harming themselves had occurred to them sometimes or quite often. In women who entered the randomised trial and completed the EPDS question relating to suicidal ideation (n = 253), suicidal ideation was associated with younger age, higher parity and higher levels of depressive symptoms in the multivariate analysis. Endorsement of 'yes, quite often' to question 10 on the EPDS was associated with affirming at least two CIS-R items on suicidality. We found no association between suicidal ideation and SF-12 physical or mental health or the EPDS total score at 18 weeks.
1.4 Conclusions
Healthcare professionals using the EPDS should be aware of the significant suicidality that is likely to be present in women endorsing 'yes, quite often' to question 10 of the EPDS. However, suicidal ideation does not appear to predict poor outcomes in women being treated for postnatal depression.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN16479417.
PMCID: PMC3161003  PMID: 21812968
8.  Educational interventions for general practitioners to identify and manage depression as a suicide risk factor in young people: a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol 
Systematic Reviews  2014;3(1):145.
Suicide is a major public health problem and globally is the second leading cause of death in young adults. Globally, there are 164,000 suicides per year in young people under 25 years. Depression is a strong risk factor for suicide. Evidence shows that 45% of those completing suicide, including young adults, contact their general practitioner rather than a mental health professional in the month before their death. Further evidence indicates that risk factors or early warning signs of suicide in young people go undetected and untreated by general practitioners. Healthcare-based suicide prevention interventions targeted at general practitioners are designed to increase identification of at-risk young people. The rationale of this type of intervention is that early identification and improved clinical management of at-risk individuals will reduce morbidity and mortality. This systematic review will synthesise evidence on the effectiveness of education interventions for general practitioners in identifying and managing depression as a suicide risk factor in young people.
We shall conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis following the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions guidelines and conform to the reporting guidelines of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement recommendations. Electronic databases will be systematically searched for randomised controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies investigating the effectiveness of interventions for general practitioners in identifying and managing depression as a suicide risk factor in young people in comparison to any other intervention, no intervention, usual care or waiting list. Grey literature will be searched by screening trial registers. Only studies published in English will be included. No date restrictions will be applied. Two authors will independently screen titles and abstracts of potential studies. The primary outcome is identification and management of depression. Secondary outcomes are suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, deliberate self-harm, knowledge of suicide risk factors and suicide-related behaviours, attitudes towards suicide risk and suicide-related behaviours, confidence in dealing with suicide risk factors and suicide-related behaviour.
Our study will inform the development of future education interventions and provide feasibility and acceptability evidence, to help general practitioners identify and manage suicidal behaviour in young people.
Systematic review registration
PROSPERO registration number: CRD42014009110.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2046-4053-3-145) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4276044  PMID: 25510820
Systematic review; Meta-analysis; Suicide; Prevention; Adolescents; Young adult; General practice
9.  Routine Self-administered, Touch-Screen Computer Based Suicidal Ideation Assessment Linked to Automated Response Team Notification in an HIV Primary Care Setting 
The implementation of routine computer-based screening for suicidal ideation and other psychosocial domains through standardized patient reported outcome instruments in two high volume urban HIV clinics is described. Factors associated with an increased risk of self-reported suicidal ideation were determined.
HIV/AIDS continues to be associated with an under-recognized risk for suicidal ideation, attempted as well as completed suicide. Suicidal ideation represents an important predictor for subsequent attempted and completed suicide. We sought to implement routine screening of suicidal ideation and associated conditions using computerized patient reported outcome (PRO) assessments.
Two geographically distinct academic HIV primary care clinics enrolled patients attending scheduled visits from 12/2005 to 2/2009. Touch-screen-based, computerized PRO assessments were implemented into routine clinical care. Substance abuse (ASSIST), alcohol consumption (AUDIT-C), depression (PHQ-9) and anxiety (PHQ-A) were assessed. The PHQ-9 assesses the frequency of suicidal ideation in the preceding two weeks. A response of “nearly every day” triggered an automated page to pre-determined clinic personnel who completed more detailed self-harm assessments.
Overall 1,216 (UAB= 740; UW= 476) patients completed initial PRO assessment during the study period. Patients were white (53%; n=646), predominantly males (79%; n=959) with a mean age of 44 (± 10). Among surveyed patients, 170 (14%) endorsed some level of suicidal ideation, while 33 (3%) admitted suicidal ideation nearly every day. In multivariable analysis, suicidal ideation risk was lower with advancing age (OR=0.74 per 10 years;95%CI=0.58-0.96) and was increased with current substance abuse (OR=1.88;95%CI=1.03-3.44) and more severe depression (OR=3.91 moderate;95%CI=2.12-7.22; OR=25.55 severe;95%CI=12.73-51.30).
Suicidal ideation was associated with current substance abuse and depression. The use of novel technologies to incorporate routine self-reported screening for suicidal ideation and other health domains allow for timely detection and intervention for this life threatening condition.
PMCID: PMC2841210  PMID: 20210646
10.  Six-Year Follow-Up of Impact of Co-proxamol Withdrawal in England and Wales on Prescribing and Deaths: Time-Series Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(5):e1001213.
A time-series study conducted by Keith Hawton and colleagues reports on the links between withdrawal of the analgesic co-proxamol and subsequent prescribing and deaths associated with analgesic poisoning.
The analgesic co-proxamol (paracetamol/dextropropoxyphene combination) has been widely involved in fatal poisoning. Concerns about its safety/effectiveness profile and widespread use for suicidal poisoning prompted its withdrawal in the UK in 2005, with partial withdrawal between 2005 and 2007, and full withdrawal in 2008. Our objective in this study was to assess the association between co-proxamol withdrawal and prescribing and deaths in England and Wales in 2005–2010 compared with 1998–2004, including estimation of possible substitution effects by other analgesics.
Methods and Findings
We obtained prescribing data from the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre (England) and Prescribing Services Partneriaeth Cydwasanaethau GIG Cymru (Wales), and mortality data from the Office for National Statistics. We carried out an interrupted time-series analysis of prescribing and deaths (suicide, open verdicts, accidental poisonings) involving single analgesics. The reduction in prescribing of co-proxamol following its withdrawal in 2005 was accompanied by increases in prescribing of several other analgesics (co-codamol, paracetamol, codeine, co-dydramol, tramadol, oxycodone, and morphine) during 2005–2010 compared with 1998–2004. These changes were associated with major reductions in deaths due to poisoning with co-proxamol receiving verdicts of suicide and undetermined cause of −21 deaths (95% CI −34 to −8) per quarter, equating to approximately 500 fewer suicide deaths (−61%) over the 6 years 2005–2010, and −25 deaths (95% CI −38 to −12) per quarter, equating to 600 fewer deaths (−62%) when accidental poisoning deaths were included. There was little observed change in deaths involving other analgesics, apart from an increase in oxycodone poisonings, but numbers were small. Limitations were that the study was based on deaths involving single drugs alone and changes in deaths involving prescribed morphine could not be assessed.
During the 6 years following the withdrawal of co-proxamol in the UK, there was a major reduction in poisoning deaths involving this drug, without apparent significant increase in deaths involving other analgesics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year, about a million people worldwide die by suicide. Most people who take their own life are mentally ill. For some, stressful events have made life seem worthless or too painful to bear. Suicide rates can be reduced by improving the treatment of mental illness and of stress and by limiting access to common suicide methods. These methods differ from place to place. For example, in England and Wales, where 4,528 suicides were recorded in 2010, drug-related poisoning is responsible for about a fifth of all suicides. Notably, between 1997 and 1999, the prescription analgesic (pain killer) co-proxamol, which contains paracetamol and the opioid dextropropoxyphene, was implicated in a fifth of drug-poisoning suicides in England and Wales. In response to concerns about co-proxamol's widespread use for suicidal poisoning and its safety/effectiveness profile, the UK Committee on Safety of Medicines announced on January 31, 2005 that the drug would be withdrawn completely from use in the UK by December 31, 2007, and that between 2005 and 2007, doctors should not prescribe co-proxamol to any new patients and should try to move patients already taking the drug onto other medications.
Why Was This Study Done?
Public health experts need to quantify the impact of co-proxamol withdrawal on analgesic prescribing in England and Wales and on suicide rates. In particular, they need to know whether its withdrawal has increased the use of other analgesics in suicide (substitution). Reassuringly, between 2005 and 2007, there was a reduction in both co-proxamol prescribing and in co-proxamol–related suicides in England and Wales but no evidence of increased poisoning deaths involving other prescription analgesics. But what about the longer-term effects of co-proxamol withdrawal? In this interrupted time-series study, the researchers assess the impact of co-proxamol withdrawal in England and Wales by comparing data on analgesic prescribing and suicide rates collected between 1998 and 2004 and between 2005 and 2010. An interrupted time-series study uses serial measurements of events in a population before and after an intervention to look for changes in response to the intervention.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained prescribing data from 1998 to 2010 for co-proxamol and several other analgesics from government sources in England and Wales, and data on suicides, open verdicts (poisoning of undetermined intent), and accidental poisonings involving single analgesics from the UK Office for National Statistics. They then estimated changes in levels and trends in prescribing and deaths following the 2005 announcement of co-proxamol withdrawal using interrupted time-series analysis. There was a marked reduction in co-proxamol prescribing that was accompanied by increased prescribing of several other analgesics after co-proxamol withdrawal. These changes were associated with a major reduction in suicide deaths due to poisoning that equated to 500 fewer deaths occurring between 2005 and 2010 than would have occurred had co-proxamol not been withdrawn. On average, there were 20 co-proxamol-related deaths (suicides and accidental poisonings) per year during 2008–2010 compared to more than 250 per year in the 1990s. Finally, there was little evidence of a change in the number of deaths involving other analgesics after co-proxamol withdrawal except for a small increase in the number of deaths involving the opioid oxycodone.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, during the six years that followed the beginning of the phased withdrawal of co-proxamol in the UK, there has been a major reduction in poisoning deaths involving this drug in England and Wales. The findings provide little evidence for an increase in deaths involving other analgesics. However, because the Office of National Statistics does not distinguish between deaths due to oral and intravenous morphine or between deaths due to morphine and heroin, the researchers did not assess whether there have been any changes in deaths involving morphine since 2005. Moreover, this study did not assess suicides related to the use of multiple drugs or investigate whether suicides involving methods other than drug-related poisoning have increased since co-proxamol withdrawal. Despite these limitations, these findings suggest that the withdrawal of co-proxamol in the UK and possibly elsewhere should have major beneficial effects on suicide rates, at least in the relatively short term.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information on the global burden of suicide and on suicide prevention (in several languages)
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on suicide and suicide prevention web page
The UK National Health Service Choices website has detailed information about suicide and its prevention
The University of Oxford Centre for Suicide Research provides information about co-proxamol and suicide and links to other research on suicide
The 2005 announcement of the withdrawal of co-proxamol in the UK is available through the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which also provides a question and answer document about the risks and benefits of co-proxamol
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about suicide (in English and Spanish)
The charity Healthtalkonline has personal stories about dealing with suicide
Help is at Hand is a resource for people bereaved by suicide
PMCID: PMC3348153  PMID: 22589703
11.  Suicide Risk Assessment Received Prior to Suicide Death by Veterans Health Administration Patients with a History of Depression 
To examine the quality of suicide risk assessment provided to veterans with a history of depression who died by suicide between 1999-2004.
Case-control study of suicide risk assessment information recorded in 488 medical charts of veterans previously diagnosed with Major Depression, Depression NOS, Dysthymia, or other, less common depression codes. Patients dying of suicide or comparison patients (n=244 pairs) were matched for age, sex, entry-year, and region.
74% of patients with a history of depression received a documented assessment of suicidal ideation within the past year, and 59% received more than one assessment. However, 70% of patients of those who died of suicide did not have a documented assessment for suicidal ideation at their final VHA visit, even if that visit occurred within 0-7 days prior to suicide death. Most patients dying by suicide denied suicidal ideation when assessed (85%, 95% CI 75%-92%), even just 0-7 days prior to suicide death (73%, 95% CI 39%-94%). Suicidal ideation was assessed more frequently during outpatient final visits with mental health providers (60%) than during final visits with primary care (13%) or other non-mental health providers (10%) (p<0.0001).
Most VHA patients with a history of depression received some suicide risk assessment within the past year, but suicide risk assessments were infrequently administered at the final visit of patients who eventually died by suicide. Among patients who had assessments, denial of suicidal ideation appeared to be of limited value. Practice changes are needed to improve suicide risk assessment among patients with histories of depression, including the development of assessment and prevention strategies that are less dependent on the presence or disclosure of suicidal ideation at scheduled medical visits.
PMCID: PMC4055158  PMID: 23561227
12.  Course of bereavement over 8-10 years in first degree relatives and spouses of people who committed suicide: longitudinal community based cohort study 
Objective To identify factors predicting the long term course of complicated grief, depression, and suicide ideation in a community based sample of relatives bereaved through suicide.
Design Longitudinal cohort study. Included in the multilevel regression models were sociodemographic and personality features, mental health history, records of received help, long term complicated grief, depression, and suicide ideation.
Setting Community based sample located in the northern part of the Netherlands.
Participants 153 first degree relatives and spouses of 74 people who had committed suicide.
Main outcome measures Complicated grief, depression, and suicide ideation assessed at 2.5 months, 13 months and 96-120 months (8-10 years) by means of self report questionnaires.
Results Complicated grief, depression, and suicide ideation were mutually associated in relatives and spouses of people who had committed suicide. A history of attempted suicide was associated with long term suicide ideation (odds ratio 5.5, 95% confidence interval 1.8 to 16.7; P=0.003). Depression was more likely to be predicted by female sex and low mastery, whereas complicated grief was more likely to be predicted by the trauma of losing a child. The risk of both complicated grief and depression decreased over time; for complicated grief the change corresponded with a Cohen’s d effect size of 0.36 at 13 months and 0.89 at 96-120 months; for depression these figures were 0.28 at 13 months and 0.94 at 96-120 months. The long term course of bereavement was not affected by family based cognitive behavioural therapy, support from a general practitioner, and/or mental healthcare. Mutual support was associated with an increased risk of complicated grief: B regression coefficient=6.4 (95% confidence interval 1.8 to 11.0; P=0.006). Throughout this long term study, selection bias might have affected some outcomes.
Conclusion In relatives bereaved by suicide, suicide ideation is associated with an increased risk of long term complicated grief and depression. The risk of complicated grief and depression decreases over time. Although mutual support is associated with an increased risk of complicated grief, we could not draw conclusions about a causal relation.
PMCID: PMC3788666  PMID: 24089424
13.  Thoughts of death or suicidal ideation are common in young people aged 12 to 30 years presenting for mental health care 
BMC Psychiatry  2012;12:234.
Reducing suicidal behaviour is a major public health goal. Expanding access to care has been identified as a key strategy. In Australia, a national network of primary-care based services (headspace) has been established for young people with mental ill-health. This study determines the socio-demographic, psychopathological and illness-stage correlates of suicidal ideation in young persons attending headspace services.
Suicidal ideation was recorded using the specific suicide item of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) in a cohort of subjects aged 12-30 years (N = 494) attending headspace services.
Of the 494 young persons assessed, 32% (158/494) had a positive response to any level of the HDRS suicide item, consisting of 16% (77/494) reporting that life was not worth living and a further 16% (81/494) reported thoughts of death or suicidal ideation. Young women (19%; 94/494) were more likely to report any positive response as compared with young men (13%; 64/494) [χ2(2,494) = 13.6, p < .01]. Those with ‘attenuated syndromes’ reported positive responses at rates comparable to those with more established disorders (35% vs. 34%; χ2(1,347) = 0.0, p = 0.87). However, more serious levels of suicidal ideation were more common in those with depressive disorders or later stages of illness. In multivariate analyses, the major predictors of the degree of suicidal ideation were increasing levels of clinician-rated depressive symptoms (beta = 0.595, p < .001), general psychopathology (beta = 0.198, p < .01), and self-reported distress (beta = 0.172, p < .05).
Feelings that life is not worth living, thoughts of death or suicidal ideation are common in young people seeking mental health care. These at-risk cognitions are evident before many of these individuals develop severe or persistent mental disorders. Thoughts of death or suicidal ideation may well need to be a primary intervention target in these young people.
PMCID: PMC3560182  PMID: 23268688
Suicide; Clinical staging; Psychiatric; Youth
14.  Suicide after Leaving the UK Armed Forces —A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(3):e1000026.
Few studies have examined suicide risk in individuals once they have left the military. We aimed to investigate the rate, timing, and risk factors for suicide in all those who had left the UK Armed Forces (1996–2005).
Methods and Findings
We carried out a cohort study of ex-Armed Forces personnel by linking national databases of discharged personnel and suicide deaths (which included deaths receiving either a suicide or undetermined verdict). Comparisons were made with both general and serving populations. During the study period 233,803 individuals left the Armed Forces and 224 died by suicide. Although the overall rate of suicide was not greater than that in the general population, the risk of suicide in men aged 24 y and younger who had left the Armed Forces was approximately two to three times higher than the risk for the same age groups in the general and serving populations (age-specific rate ratios ranging from 170 to 290). The risk of suicide for men aged 30–49 y was lower than that in the general population. The risk was persistent but may have been at its highest in the first 2 y following discharge. The risk of suicide was greatest in males, those who had served in the Army, those with a short length of service, and those of lower rank. The rate of contact with specialist mental health was lowest in the age groups at greatest risk of suicide (14% for those aged under 20 y, 20% for those aged 20–24 y).
Young men who leave the UK Armed Forces were at increased risk of suicide. This may reflect preservice vulnerabilities rather than factors related to service experiences or discharge. Preventive strategies might include practical and psychological preparation for discharge and encouraging appropriate help-seeking behaviour once individuals have left the services.
Navneet Kapur and colleagues find that young men who leave the United Kingdom Armed Forces are at increased risk of suicide.
Editors' Summary
Leaving any job can be hard but for people leaving the armed forces the adjustment to their new circumstances can sometimes be particularly difficult. For example, ex-military personnel may face obstacles to getting a new job, particularly if they were injured in action. Some become homeless. Others turn to alcohol or drugs or suffer mental illnesses such as depression. These things probably aren't common but those who leave the armed forces might also be at higher risk of suicide than the general population.
Why Was This Study Done?
Serving members of the UK Armed Forces (the British Army, the Naval Service, and the Royal Air Force) have a lower rate of suicide than the general UK population. The lower rate is probably due to “the healthy worker effect” (i.e., workers tend to be healthier than the general population, since the latter includes people unable to work due to illness or disability). However, there are anecdotal reports that ex-military personnel are more likely to die by suicide than are members of the general population. If these reports are correct, then measures should be put into place to prepare people for leaving the Armed Forces and to provide more support for them once they have left the military. The authors of this new study say that no previous studies had systematically examined suicide risk in individuals leaving the Armed Forces. In this new study, therefore, the researchers examine the suicide rate, timing, and risk factors for suicide in a large group (cohort) of former members of the UK Armed Forces.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers linked data on everyone who left the UK Armed Forces between 1996 and 2005 with information on suicides collected by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide. Since 1996, the Inquiry has been collecting information about all suicides (defined as cases where the coroner has given a verdict of suicide or of “undetermined death”) in the UK, including information about whether the deceased used mental health services in the year before they died. The aim of the Inquiry is to reduce the risk of suicides (and homicides) in the UK by improving the country's mental health services. Between 1996 and 2005, 233,803 people left the Armed Forces and 224 (nearly all men) died by suicide. The researchers' statistical analysis of these data indicates that the overall suicide rate in the ex-military personnel was similar to that in the general population. However, the risk of suicide in men aged 24 y or younger who had left the military was 2–3 times greater than that in the same age group in both the general male population and in men serving in the Armed Forces. The risk of dying by suicide was highest in the first 2 y after leaving the military but remained raised for several years. Risk factors for suicide among ex-military personnel included being male, serving in the Army, having a short length of service, and being of lower rank. Only a fifth of the ex-military personnel who committed suicide had been in contact with mental health services in the year before they died, and the rate of contact with these services was lowest among individuals in the age groups at the highest risk of suicide.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that young men leaving the UK Armed Forces are at increased risk of suicide, particularly shortly after leaving. The study was not able to prove the reason for this increased risk, but the authors suggest three main possibilities: (1) the stress of transitioning to civilian life, (2) exposure to adverse experiences while in the military, or (3) a vulnerability to suicide before entering the military. The study provides some evidence to support the third hypothesis—untrained personnel with short lengths of service have a particularly high risk of dying by suicide after leaving the military, suggesting that the increased suicide risk may reflect a pre-military vulnerability. The researchers suggest that practical and psychological preparation might be helpful for people leaving the Armed Forces and that appropriate help-seeking behavior could be encouraged in these individuals. In the UK, the National Health Service is currently piloting a community-based mental health service for military veterans, characterized by regional clinical networks involving partnerships of relevant experts.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Jitender Sareen and Shay-Lee Belik
The Manchester University Centre for Suicide Prevention provides information about the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide and about other research into suicide, and a list of useful Web sites and help lines for people going through crises
A recent article in the Observer newspaper by Mark Townsend discusses the problems facing UK military personnel when they leave the Armed Forces
Information about suicides among serving members of the UK Armed Forces is published by the Defence Analytical Services Agency
The UK National Health Service provides information about suicide, including statistics about suicide in the UK and links to other resources
MedlinePlus also provides links to further information and advice about suicide
The World Health Organization provides information on the global burden of suicide
PMCID: PMC2650723  PMID: 19260757
15.  What’s the Harm in Asking about Suicidal Ideation? 
Both researchers and oversight committees share concerns about patient safety in the study-related assessment of suicidality. However, concern about assessing suicidal thoughts can be a barrier to the development of empirical evidence that informs research on how to safely conduct these assessments. A question has been raised if asking about suicidal thoughts can result in iatrogenic increases of such thoughts, especially among at-risk samples. The current study repeatedly tested suicidal ideation at 6-month intervals for up to 2-years. Suicidal ideation was measured with the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire Junior, and administered to adolescents who had previously received inpatient psychiatric care. Change in suicidal ideation was tested using several analytic techniques, each of which pointed to a significant decline in suicidal ideation in the context of repeated assessment. This and previous study outcomes suggest that asking an at-risk population about suicidal ideation is not associated with subsequent increases in suicidal ideation.
PMCID: PMC3597074  PMID: 22548324
Suicidal Ideation; Adolescent; Assessment; Safety; Ethics
16.  The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) 
Psychiatry  2014;77(2):107-119.
Although the suicide rate in the U.S. Army has traditionally been below age-gender matched civilian rates, it has climbed steadily since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and since 2008 has exceeded the demographically matched civilian rate. The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) is a multicomponent epidemiological and neurobiological study designed to generate actionable evidence-based recommendations to reduce Army suicides and increase knowledge about risk and resilience factors for suicidality and its psychopathological correlates. This paper presents an overview of the Army STARRS component study designs and of recent findings.
Army STARRS includes six main component studies: (1) the Historical Administrative Data Study (HADS) of Army and Department of Defense (DoD) administrative data systems (including records of suicidal behaviors) for all soldiers on active duty 2004–2009 aimed at finding administrative record predictors of suicides; (2) retrospective case-control studies of fatal and nonfatal suicidal behaviors (each planned to have n = 150 cases and n = 300 controls); (3) a study of new soldiers (n = 50,765 completed surveys) assessed just before beginning basic combat training (BCT) with self-administered questionnaires (SAQ), neurocognitive tests, and blood samples; (4) a cross-sectional study of approximately 35,000 (completed SAQs) soldiers representative of all other (i.e., exclusive of BCT) active duty soldiers; (5) a pre-post deployment study (with blood samples) of soldiers in brigade combat teams about to deploy to Afghanistan (n = 9,421 completed baseline surveys), with sub-samples assessed again one, three, and nine months after returning from deployment; and (6) a pilot study to follow-up SAQ respondents transitioning to civilian life. Army/DoD administrative data are being linked prospectively to the large-scale survey samples to examine predictors of subsequent suicidality and related mental health outcomes.
Main outcome measures
Measures (self-report and administratively recorded) of suicidal behaviors and their psychopathological correlates.
Component study cooperation rates are comparatively high. Sample biases are relatively small. Inefficiencies introduced into parameter estimates by using nonresponse adjustment weights and time-space clustering are small. Initial findings show that the suicide death rate, which rose over 2004–2009, increased for those deployed, those never deployed, and those previously deployed. Analyses of administrative records show that those deployed or previously deployed were at greater suicide risk. Receiving a waiver to enter the Army was not associated with increased risk. However, being demoted in the past two years was associated with increased risk. Time in current deployment, length of time since return from most recent deployment, total number of deployments, and time interval between most recent deployments (known as dwell time) were not associated with suicide risk. Initial analyses of survey data show that 13.9% of currently active non-deployed regular Army soldiers considered suicide at some point in their lifetime, while 5.3% had made a suicide plan, and 2.4% had attempted suicide. Importantly, 47–60% of these outcomes first occurred prior to enlistment. Prior mental disorders, in particular major depression and intermittent explosive disorder, were the strongest predictors of these self-reported suicidal behaviors. Most onsets of plans-attempts among ideators (58.3–63.3%) occurred within the year of onset of ideation. About 25.1% of non-deployed U.S. Army personnel met 30-day criteria for a DSM-IV anxiety, mood, disruptive behavior, or substance disorder (15.0% an internalizing disorder; 18.4% an externalizing disorder) and 11.1% for multiple disorders. Importantly, three-fourths of these disorders had pre-enlistment onsets.
Integration across component studies creates strengths going well beyond those in conventional applications of the same individual study designs. These design features create a strong methodological foundation from which Army STARRS can pursue its substantive research goals. The early findings reported here illustrate the importance of the study and its approach as a model of studying rare events particularly of national security concern. Continuing analyses of the data will inform suicide prevention for the U.S. Army.
PMCID: PMC4075436  PMID: 24865195
17.  Factors affecting the presence of depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal ideation in patients attending primary health care service in Lithuania 
Objective. The aim of this study was to establish prevalence, recognition, and risk factors for mental disorders and suicidal ideation in PC patients. Design. A cross-sectional survey based on standard mental health evaluation. Setting. Lithuanian primary care. Subjects. 998 patients from four urban PC clinics. Main outcome measures. Current mental disorders and suicidal ideation assessed using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI). Results. According to the MINI, 27% of patients were diagnosed with at least one current mental disorder. The most common mental disorders were generalized anxiety disorder (18%) and major depressive episode (MDE) (15%), followed by social phobia (3%), panic disorder (3%), and post-traumatic stress disorder (2%). Some 6% of patients reported suicidal ideation. About 70% of patients with current mental disorder had no documented psychiatric diagnosis and about 60% received no psychiatric treatment. Greater adjusted odds for current MDE were associated with being widowed or divorced patients (odds ratio, OR = 1.8, 95% CI 1.2–2.8) and with lower education (OR = 1.6, 95% CI 1.1–2.3), while greater adjusted odds for any current anxiety disorder were found for women (OR = 1.9, 95% CI 1.3–2.8) and for patients with documented insomnia (OR = 2.2, 95% CI 1.2–4.2). Suicidal ideation was independently associated with use of antidepressants (OR = 5.4, 95% CI 1.7–16.9), with current MDE (OR = 2.9, 95% CI 1.5–5.8), and with excessive alcohol consumption (OR = 2.0, 95% CI 1.1–3.8). Conclusions. Depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal ideation are prevalent but poorly recognized among PC patients. The presence of current MDE is independently associated with marital status and with lower education, while current anxiety disorder is associated with female gender and insomnia. Suicidal ideation is associated with current MDE, and with antidepressants and alcohol use.
PMCID: PMC4137898  PMID: 24533847
Anxiety disorder; depression; general practice; Lithuania; primary care; recognition; suicidal ideation
18.  Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Attempts in Anxious or Depressed Family Caregivers of Patients with Cancer: A Nationwide Survey in Korea 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60230.
To describe the prevalence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in family caregivers (FCs) of patients with cancer and to identify the factors associated with suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in FCs with anxiety or depression.
A national, multicenter survey administered to 897 FCs asked questions concerning suicidal ideation and suicide attempts during the previous year and assessed anxiety, depression, socio–demographic factors, caregiving burden, patient factors, and quality of life (QOL).
A total of 17.7% FCs reported suicidal ideation, and 2.8% had attempted suicide during the previous year. Among FCs with anxiety, 31.9% had suicidal ideation and 4.7% attempted suicide; the corresponding values for FCs with depression were 20.4% and 3.3%, respectively. Compared with FCs without anxiety and depression, FCs with anxiety or depression showed a higher adjusted odds ratios (aOR) for suicidal ideation (aOR  = 4.07 and 1.93, respectively) and attempts (OR  = 3.00 and 2.43, respectively). Among FCs with anxiety or depression, being female, unmarried, unemployed during caregiving, and having a low QOL were associated with increased odds of suicidal ideation. FCs with anxiety who became unemployed during caregiving constituted a high-risk group for suicide. Being unmarried and having a low QOL with respect to financial matters were associated with increased suicide attempts among FCs with depression.
FCs with anxiety or depression were at high risk of suicide. Interventions to enhance social support and to improve perceived QOL may help prevent suicide and manage suicidal ideation in FCs with anxiety or depression.
PMCID: PMC3615012  PMID: 23565204
19.  Prevalence and correlates of suicidal ideation during pregnancy 
Archives of women's mental health  2011;14(3):239-246.
Data are scarce regarding the prevalence and risk factors for antenatal suicidal ideation because systematic screening for suicidal ideation during pregnancy is rare. This study reports the prevalence and correlates of suicidal ideation during pregnancy. We performed cross-sectional analysis of data from an ongoing registry. Study participants were 2,159 women receiving prenatal care at a university obstetric clinic from January 2004 through March 2010. Multiple logistic regression identified factors associated with antenatal suicidal ideation as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire. Overall, 2.7% of the sample reported antenatal suicidal ideation. Over 50% of women who reported antenatal suicidal ideation also reported major depression. In the fully adjusted model antenatal major depression (OR=11.50; 95% CI 5.40, 24.48) and antenatal psychosocial stress (OR=3.19; 95% CI 1.44, 7.05) were positively associated with an increased risk of antenatal suicidal ideation. We found that being non-Hispanic White was associated with a decreased risk of antenatal suicidal ideation (OR=0.51; 95% CI 0.26–0.99). The prevalence of antenatal suicidal ideation in the present study was similar to rates reported in nationally representative non-pregnant samples. In other words, pregnancy is not a protective factor against suicidal ideation. Given the high comorbidity of antenatal suicidal ideation with major depression, efforts should be made to identify those women at risk for antenatal suicidal ideation through universal screening.
PMCID: PMC3724526  PMID: 21327844
Suicidality; Pregnancy; Depression; Universal screening; Prenatal care; Prenatal period; Major depression
20.  Unrecognized suicidal ideation in ED patients: are we missing an opportunity? 
To determine if patients who disclosed suicidal ideation during a health risk survey had their mental health symptoms documented by physicians and were given mental health referrals and to evaluate how many of these patients subsequently attempted suicide.
As part of a larger survey, patients responded to questions on a computer kiosk about general health risk behaviors and mental health symptoms. Fifteen months after initiating the survey, we reviewed medical records on those patients who had disclosed suicidal ideation. A standardized abstraction sheet was used to collect data regarding the ED diagnosis at the time of enrollment, physician documentation of suicidal ideation, and referral to psychiatric services, as well as subsequent ED and clinic visits and suicide attempts.
Of the 165 patients who disclosed suicidal ideation on the computer survey, 118 charts (72%) were available. During the index ED visit, only 25% of patients had suicidal ideation or other mental health issues noted on the chart. The majority of patients (76%) were discharged home, 10% were transferred to psychiatric services, and 3% were admitted for medical reasons. Although 72 patients had no future visits to the ED or other hospital-affiliated clinics, 39% of patients had at least one subsequent visit to the ED, and 17% had at least one visit to the psychiatric services. Four patients attempted suicide following their initial index visit to the ED.
Suicidal ideation was self disclosed frequently by waiting room patients in our urban ED and patients who disclosed suicidal ideation did not always receive referrals for mental health services.
PMCID: PMC3746995  PMID: 18606326
suicidal ideation; screening; emergency department; kiosk
21.  Case-control study of GP attendance rates by suicide cases with or without a psychiatric history. 
BACKGROUND: Targets for reduction in suicide deaths have been set against a background of an increasing number of people committing suicide. It is often assumed that a reduction can be effected by increasing the detection in primary care of patients at risk. This presupposes that there are indicators that enable suicide risk to be detected reliably. AIM: To compare the characteristics of those who commit suicide with an age- and sex-matched control group in terms of level of general practitioner attendance, diagnosis and pharmacological treatment of mental illness, and to compare those suicides with and without a psychiatric history in terms of general practitioner attendance and history of pharmacological treatment. METHOD: From a total of 48 deaths attributed to suicide and undetermined causes in the Forth Valley in 1993, general practice case notes were located for 41. Live controls were matched to index cases by age, sex and practice. Information on consultations, referrals to secondary care, medication and diagnoses in the previous 10 years was extracted from general practice and, for suicides, psychiatric case notes. RESULTS: Over the 10-year period, suicide patients attended their general practitioner at a higher level than control subjects. However, the number of suicide patients who attended their general practitioner in the month before their death did not differ in comparison with control subjects over a similar period. Suicide cases, in comparison with control subjects, were more likely to have received a psychiatric diagnosis from their general practitioner, been prescribed psychotropic medication and received referral to specialist mental health services. Those suicide patients with a psychiatric history had a significantly higher number of general practitioner consultations than those without a psychiatric history in four out of the five years preceding death. Those suicide patients without a psychiatric history did not differ significantly from control subjects on any of the variables assessed. CONCLUSION: For those people committing suicide who do not have a psychiatric history and whose consultation patterns do not differ from the norm, it is difficult to suggest how general practitioners might improve their detection of relevant suicidal risk factors. For those patients with a psychiatric history who commit suicide, until we have more detailed information regarding the specific content of general practitioner's consultations before death and how these differed from other consultations of the deceased, then it is premature to assume that general practitioners are failing to identify indicators of impending suicide.
PMCID: PMC1312944  PMID: 9196962
22.  Suicidal Ideation in a Population-Based Sample of Adolescents: Implications for Family Medicine Practice 
ISRN Family Medicine  2013;2013:282378.
Introduction. This study investigated the relationship between suicidal ideation and demographic characteristics, health conditions, depression, and health care utilization patterns among adolescents. Methods. Secondary analysis of the regionally representative Canadian Community Health Survey conducted in 2000/2001 (response rate 85%). Adolescents aged 15 to 19 who reported suicidal ideation in the previous year (n = 260) were compared with their peers who did not (n = 5528). The association between suicidal ideation and socio-demographic and health characteristics were investigated. Findings. Almost three-quarters (73%) of suicidal adolescents had not spoken with any health professional about mental health issues in the preceding year. Despite the fact that 80% of suicidal adolescents had regular contact with their family doctor, only 5% had consulted with them about mental health issues. In addition to the well-known risk factors of depression and stress, suicidal ideation was highly elevated in adolescents with two or more chronic health conditions, self-reported poor health, migraines, and back pain and those whose activities were prevented by pain (P < .05). Other characteristics significantly correlated with suicidal ideation included smoking, living in single parent families, and having lower levels of social support. Conclusions. Family physicians should regularly screen for suicidal thoughts in their adolescent patients with these characteristics.
PMCID: PMC4041249  PMID: 24967322
23.  Suicidality and Its Risk Factors in Korean People with Epilepsy: A MEPSY Study 
Background and Purpose
People with epilepsy (PWE) are more likely to experience suicidality, with suicidal ideation and attempts, than people without epilepsy (PWoE). The aims of the present study were to determine 1) the characteristics of suicidality in Korean PWE, 2) whether PWE with suicidality receive psychiatric intervention, and 3) the risk factors for suicidality.
Patients who consecutively visited epilepsy clinics at secondary- and tertiary-care hospitals were recruited (n=684), along with age- and sex-matched PWoE (n=229). The presence of current major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and/or suicidality was established using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview-Plus Version 5.0.0. The Korean version of the Liverpool Adverse Events Profile (K-LAEP) was applied to detect adverse effects of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs).
Suicidality was present in 208 (30.4%) of the 684 PWE. The rate of suicidality was 4.6 times higher among PWE than PWoE, and 108 (15.7%) PWE had suicidal ideation and had attempted suicide. Among those who had attempted suicide, 40.7% had made at least two attempts. The most common method of suicide attempt was drug overdose (34.9%). Unfortunately, of the 208 PWE with suicidality, 136 (65.4%) did not receive psychiatric intervention. The risk factors for suicidality were MDD [odds ratio (OR)=6.448, 95% confidence interval (CI)=3.739-11.120, p<0.001], GAD (OR=3.561, 95% CI=1.966-6.452, p<0.001), item scores of 3 or 4 on the K-LAEP (OR=2.688, 95% CI=1.647-4.387, p<0.001), and a history of febrile convulsion (OR= 2.188, 95% CI=1.318-3.632, p=0.002).
Suicidality is more prevalent in PWE than in PWoE. Clinicians should monitor psychiatric disorders and the adverse effects of AEDs in PWE in an attempt to reduce the incidence of suicidal ideation or suicide attempts in this patient population.
PMCID: PMC4302177  PMID: 25628735
suicide; epilepsy; depression; anxiety; adverse effect; risk factor
24.  Suicide within 12 months of contact with mental health services: national clinical survey 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1999;318(7193):1235-1239.
To describe the clinical circumstances in which psychiatric patients commit suicide.
National clinical survey.
England and Wales.
A two year sample of people who had committed suicide, in particular those who had been in contact with mental health services in the 12 months before death.
Main outcome measures
Proportion of suicides in people who had had recent contact with mental health services; proportion of suicides in inpatients; proportion of people committing suicide and timing of suicide within three months of hospital discharge; proportion receiving high priority under the care programme approach; proportion who were recently non-compliant and not attending.
10 040 suicides were notified to the study between April 1996 and March 1998, of whom 2370 (24%; 95% confidence interval 23% to 24%) had had contact with mental health services in the year before death. Data were obtained on 2177, a response rate of 92%. In general these subjects had broad social and clinical needs. Alcohol and drug misuse were common. 358 (16%; 15% to 18%) were psychiatric inpatients at the time of death, 21% (17% to 25%) of whom were under special observation. Difficulties in observing patients because of ward design and nursing shortages were both reported in around a quarter of inpatient suicides. 519 (24%; 22% to 26%) suicides occurred within three months of hospital discharge, the highest number occurring in the first week after discharge. 914 (43%; 40% to 44%) were in the highest priority category for community care. 488 (26% excluding people whose compliance was unknown; 24% to 28%) were non-compliant with drug treatment while 486 (28%; 26% to 30%) community patients had lost contact with services. Most people who committed suicide were thought to have been at no or low immediate risk at the final service contact. Mental health teams believed suicide could have been prevented in 423 (22%; 20% to 24%) cases.
Several suicide prevention measures in mental health services are implied by these findings, including measures to improve compliance and prevent loss of contact with services. Inpatient facilities should remove structural difficulties in observing patients and fixtures that can be used in hanging. Prevention of suicide after discharge may require earlier follow up in the community. Better suicide prevention in psychiatric patients is likely to need measures to improve the safety of mental health services as a whole, rather than specific measures for people known to be at high risk.
Key messagesAround a quarter of people who commit suicide have been in contact with mental health services in the year before death—over 1000 cases annuallyOf these cases, 16% are psychiatric inpatients and 24% have been discharged from inpatient care in the previous three monthsProblems of observation caused by ward design and nursing shortages are common in cases of inpatient suicideSuicide in former inpatients occurs most commonly in the week after dischargeNon-compliance with treatment and loss of contact with services are common before suicide
PMCID: PMC27859  PMID: 10231250
25.  Intimate Partner Violence and Incident Depressive Symptoms and Suicide Attempts: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001439.
Karen Devries and colleagues conduct a systematic review of longitudinal studies to evaluate the direction of association between symptoms of depression and intimate partner violence.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Depression and suicide are responsible for a substantial burden of disease globally. Evidence suggests that intimate partner violence (IPV) experience is associated with increased risk of depression, but also that people with mental disorders are at increased risk of violence. We aimed to investigate the extent to which IPV experience is associated with incident depression and suicide attempts, and vice versa, in both women and men.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies published before February 1, 2013. More than 22,000 records from 20 databases were searched for studies examining physical and/or sexual intimate partner or dating violence and symptoms of depression, diagnosed major depressive disorder, dysthymia, mild depression, or suicide attempts. Random effects meta-analyses were used to generate pooled odds ratios (ORs). Sixteen studies with 36,163 participants met our inclusion criteria. All studies included female participants; four studies also included male participants. Few controlled for key potential confounders other than demographics. All but one depression study measured only depressive symptoms. For women, there was clear evidence of an association between IPV and incident depressive symptoms, with 12 of 13 studies showing a positive direction of association and 11 reaching statistical significance; pooled OR from six studies = 1.97 (95% CI 1.56–2.48, I2 = 50.4%, pheterogeneity = 0.073). There was also evidence of an association in the reverse direction between depressive symptoms and incident IPV (pooled OR from four studies = 1.93, 95% CI 1.51–2.48, I2 = 0%, p = 0.481). IPV was also associated with incident suicide attempts. For men, evidence suggested that IPV was associated with incident depressive symptoms, but there was no clear evidence of an association between IPV and suicide attempts or depression and incident IPV.
In women, IPV was associated with incident depressive symptoms, and depressive symptoms with incident IPV. IPV was associated with incident suicide attempts. In men, few studies were conducted, but evidence suggested IPV was associated with incident depressive symptoms. There was no clear evidence of association with suicide attempts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Depression and suicide are responsible for a substantial proportion of the global disease burden. Depression—an overwhelming feeling of sadness and hopelessness that can last for months or years—affects more than 350 million people worldwide. It is the eleventh leading cause of global disability-adjusted life-years (a measure of overall disease burden), and it affects one in six people at some time during their lives. Globally, about a million people commit suicide every year, usually because they have depression or some other mental illness. Notably, in cross-sectional studies (investigations that look at a population at a single time point), experience of intimate partner violence (IPV, also called domestic violence) is strongly and consistently associated with both depressive disorders and suicide. IPV, like depression and suicide, is extremely common—in multi-country studies, 15%–71% of women report being physically assaulted at some time during their lifetime. IPV is defined as physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse; men as well as women can be the victims of IPV.
Why Was This Study Done?
It may seem obvious to assume that IPV is causally related to subsequent depression and suicidal behavior. However, cross-sectional studies provide no information about causality, and it is possible that depression and/or suicide attempts cause subsequent IPV or that there are common risk factors for IPV, depression, and suicide. For example, individuals with depressive symptoms may be more accepting of partners with characteristics that predispose them to use violence, or early life exposure to violence may predispose individuals to both depression and choosing violent partners. Here, as part of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, the researchers investigate the extent to which experience of IPV is associated with subsequent depression and suicide attempts and vice versa in both men and women by undertaking a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies that have examined IPV, depression, and suicide attempts. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic, meta-analysis combines the results of several studies, and longitudinal studies track people over time to investigate associations between specific characteristics and outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 16 longitudinal studies involving a total of 36,163 participants that met their inclusion criteria. All the studies included women, but only four also included men. All the studies were undertaken in high- and middle-income countries. For women, 11 studies showed a statistically significant association (an association unlikely to have occurred by chance) between IPV and subsequent depressive symptoms. In a meta-analysis of six studies, experience of IPV nearly doubled the risk of women subsequently reporting depressive symptoms. In addition, there was evidence of an association in the reverse direction. In a meta-analysis of four studies, depressive symptoms nearly doubled the risk of women subsequently experiencing IPV. IPV was also associated with subsequent suicide attempts among women. For men, there was some evidence from two studies that IPV was associated with depressive symptoms but no evidence for an association between IPV and subsequent suicide attempt or between depressive symptoms and subsequent IPV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that women who are exposed to IPV are at increased risk of subsequent depression and that women who are depressed are more likely to be at risk of IPV. They also provide evidence of an association between IPV and subsequent suicide attempt for women. The study provides little evidence for similar relationships among men, but additional studies are needed to confirm this finding. Moreover, the accuracy of these findings is likely to be affected by several limitations of the study. For example, few of the included studies controlled for other factors that might have affected both exposure to IPV and depressive symptoms, and none of the studies considered the effect of emotional violence on depressive symptoms and suicide attempts. Nevertheless, these findings have two important implications. First, they suggest that preventing violence against women has the potential to reduce the global burden of disease related to depression and suicide. Second, they suggest that clinicians should pay attention to past experiences of violence and the risk of future violence when treating women who present with symptoms of depression.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Alexander Tsai
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of depression and of suicide and suicide prevention (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about depression, including personal stories about depression, and information on suicide and its prevention; it has a webpage about domestic violence, which includes descriptions of personal experiences
The World Health Organization provides information on depression, on the global burden of suicide and on suicide prevention, and on intimate partner violence (some information in several languages)
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about depression, suicide, and domestic violence (in English and Spanish)
The charity Healthtalkonline has personal stories about depression and about dealing with suicide
PMCID: PMC3646718  PMID: 23671407

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