Suicide in schizophrenia: Findings from a national clinical survey

Isabelle M. Hunt, Nav Kapur, Kirsten Windfuhr, Jo Robinson, Harriet Bickley, Sandra Flynn, Rebecca Parsons, James Burns, Jenny Shaw, Louis Appleby

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    BACKGROUND. A reduction in suicide among individuals with mental illness is an international public-health priority. Approximately 10% of patients with schizophrenia will die by suicide. OBJECTIVE. The goal of this study was to describe social and clinical characteristics of people with schizophrenia who completed suicide, including aspects of the clinical care they received. METHOD. A national clinical survey was conducted based on a 4-year (1996-2000) sample of people in England and Wales who had died by suicide and had been in contact with mental health services in the previous 12 months. RESULTS. Of 20,927 individuals who committed suicide, 5,099 (24%) were known to have been in contact with mental health services in the year prior to death. Completed questionnaires were returned on 4,859 cases of suicide. Of these, 960 (20%) were diagnosed with schizophrenia. These suicides were characterized by more violent modes of death, with over a quarter (27%) jumping from a height or in front of a moving vehicle compared to 10% of the remaining sample. They were more likely than the other individuals in the sample to be young, male, unmarried, and from an ethnic minority with high rates of unemployment. Rates of previous violence and drug abuse were high and they were proportionally more likely to be inpatients at the time of death and to have been noncompliant with medication. Patients with schizophrenia and comorbid substance abuse showed particularly complex social and clinical morbidity. CONCLUSIONS. Measures that may prevent suicide among patients with schizophrenia include improved ward safety, closer supervision in both inpatient and community settings, particularly for those with poor medication compliance, and effective treatment of substance abuse. Copyright ©2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)139-147
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Psychiatric Practice
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 2006


    • Clinical care
    • Comorbid substance dependence
    • Schizophrenia
    • Suicide
    • Suicide prevention


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