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Keywords:

  • agitation;
  • antidepressant drugs;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • schizophrenia;
  • suicide

Aims:  The aim of this study was to identify predictors of completed suicide in a wide sample of psychiatric inpatients receiving retrospective and prospective DSM-IV diagnoses.

Methods:  We followed up 4441 severe psychiatric patients who were hospitalized for some time during a 35-year period in a private hospital setting. We collected sociodemographic, clinical and temperamental data.

Results:  Ninety-six patients from the sample committed suicide. There were no sex differences in suicide completion and no differences between major psychiatric disorders, but people who had been hospitalized for anxiety disorders did not commit suicide and people with bipolar disorders were more likely to commit suicide than people with unipolar major depression. Shorter-term treatment with lithium and anticonvulsants, longer-term treatment with antidepressants, history of suicide attempts, suicidal thinking, and single status positively predicted completed suicide. Suicide tended to occur after a mean period of about 14 years of duration of disease. Patients' symptoms during the period preceding suicide were assessed through interviewing patients' physicians or family members. Symptoms occurring in >10% of cases were, in decreasing order, inner tension, racing/crowded thoughts, aggressive behavior, guilt, psychomotor agitation, persecutory ideation, anxiety, and hallucinations. Surprisingly, cyclothymic temperament was less associated with completed suicide as compared to other temperaments.

Conclusions:  Suicide is likely to occur in a milieu of agitation, mixed anxiety and depression, and psychosis. Longer-term mood stabilizer treatment may reduce the rate of completed suicide.