Abstract Thirty-six psychiatric patients with completed suicide, 162 with attempted suicide and 154 patients referred for suicidal behavior, four of whom died, were investigated and classified according to the ICD-10. Thirty-six patients with completed suicide among 9085 new psychiatric patients (1969-92) gave a suicide rate of 82.6/100 000 per year. Schizoaffective and depressive disorder in psychiatric patients with completed suicide and schizophrenia, depressive disorder and adjustment disorders in patients with attempted suicide were significantly more frequent than in 312 controls. Intrafamilial conflicts, divorce or loss of love and death or severe disease of family member were the most common precipitants. Loneliness from living alone in males, losing a spouse and intrafamilial conflicts within a large family of three generations in females were supposed to be risk factors. A high referral rate of 48% in attempted suicide indicated the important role of consultation-liaison psychiatry in emergency medicine.