• alcoholism;
  • comorbidity;
  • depression;
  • life events;
  • suicide.

Abstract In the research phase of the National Suicide Prevention Project, all suicides (n= 1397) in Finland between March 1987 and April 1988 were examined retrospectively using the psychological autopsy method. Careful retrospective diagnostic evaluation of the victims according to DSM-III-R criteria was done by weighing and integrating all available information. A series of studies addressing the mental disorders among suicide victims, the treatment received before death and the life events is now reviewed.

Among a random sample of suicide victims from the nationwide suicide population, at least one psychiatric diagnosis was made for 93% of the victims. The most prevalent disorders were depressive syndromes (66%) and alcohol dependence/abuse (43%). The prevalence of major depression was higher among women than among men. Major depression as the principal diagnosis was more common among the elderly suicides. Among adolescent victims, depressive syndromes were also the most prevalent disorders. Adjustment disorders were common (25%) among male adolescent suicides. The majority of suicide victims of all ages suffered from comorbid mental disorders.

Among suicide victims who had had contact with a health carer before death, inadequacy of treatment for mental disorders seems to have been common. Of the major depressive victims only 3% were found to have received adequate psychopharmacological treatment, and only 7% received weekly psychotherapy by a trained therapist.

The analysis of the massive database collected in the research phase of the National Suicide Prevention Project in Finland is still ongoing, and the implications of the findings for suicide prevention will be refined during the research process. The necessity to improve recognition and treatment for comorbid depressive disorders in all age groups seems evident already.