Suicide risk in schizophrenia: learning from the past to change the future

Pompili, Maurizio; Amador, Xavier; Girardi, Paolo; Harkavy-Friedman, Jill M.; Harrow, Martin; Kaplan, Kalman; Krausz, Michael; Lester, David; Meltzer, Herbert; Modestin, Jiri; Montross, Lori; Bo Mortensen, Preben; Munk-Jørgensen, Povl; Nielsen, Jimmi; Nordentoft, Merete; Saarinen, Pirjo; Zisook, Sidney; Wilson, Scott Thomas; Tatarelli, Roberto

Suicide is a major cause of death among patients with schizophrenia. Research indicates that at least 5–13% of schizophrenic patients die by suicide, and it is likely that the higher end of range is the most accurate estimate. There is almost total agreement that the schizophrenic patient who is more likely to commit suicide is young, male, white and never married, with good premorbid function, post-psychotic depression and a history of substance abuse and suicide attempts. Hopelessness, social isolation, hospitalization, deteriorating health after a high level of premorbid functioning, recent loss or rejection, limited external support, and family stress or instability are risk factors for suicide in patients with schizophrenia. Suicidal schizophrenics usually fear further mental deterioration, and they experience either excessive treatment dependence or loss of faith in treatment. Awareness of illness has been reported as a major issue among suicidal schizophrenic patients, yet some researchers argue that insight into the illness does not increase suicide risk. Protective factors play also an important role in assessing suicide risk and should also be carefully evaluated. The neurobiological perspective offers a new approach for understanding self-destructive behavior among patients with schizophrenia and may improve the accuracy of screening schizophrenics for suicide. Although, there is general consensus on the risk factors, accurate knowledge as well as early recognition of patients at risk is still lacking in everyday clinical practice. Better knowledge may help clinicians and caretakers to implement preventive measures. This review paper is the results of a joint effort between researchers in the field of suicide in schizophrenia. Each expert provided a brief essay on one specific aspect of the problem. This is the first attempt to present a consensus report as well as the development of a set of guidelines for reducing suicide risk among schizophrenia patients.


Also Published In

Annals of General Psychiatry

More About This Work

Academic Units
Counseling and Clinical Psychology
Published Here
September 9, 2014