• attempted suicide;
  • parental death;
  • parental divorce;
  • family history;
  • suicidal behaviour;
  • alcohol abuse

ABSTRACT– Forty suicide-attempt patients who were consecutively admitted to an intensive-care unit, their significant others and treatment personnel were investigated by semistructured interviews. The patients were divided into neurosis (n= 14), abuse (n= 19) and psychosis (n= 7) groups. Twenty-one of the patients (52%) had lost contact with one or both parents before the age of 18, in 25% of cases owing to death and in 27% because of the parents' divorce or separation. Parents and/or siblings of 19 patients (47%) had shown suicidal behaviour in the form of attempted suicide and/or suicide. Differences between the groups were not significant. Alcohol abuse in the parental home was overrepresented in the abuse group compared with the other groups. The role of identification with the dead and suicidal parent in prompting suicidal actions in adulthood is discussed, as well as that of the impeded evolution of stable external object relations owing to parental losses.