Depression In Suicidal Behaviour

Estimates vary considerably of how many people who commit suicide were depressed (Lonnqvist, 2000). This is perhaps not surprising, as accurate data are difficult to arrive at and usually rely on a retrospective method of trying to build a picture of the person, called psychological autopsy. For example, Foster et al. (1997) conducted interviews with general practitioners, family, friends, and work colleagues to study the characteristics of 118 people out of 154 who committed suicide in Northern Ireland in 1 year. They estimated that an Axis

I disorder was present in 86% of cases, but that this was major unipolar depression in only 32% and bipolar depression in 4% of cases. One very large-scale study looked at reported suicides over a 5-year period in the UK (Department of Health, 2001). The study found that about one-quarter of almost 21 000 suicides over the period were in contact with mental health services, and so consultants were able to provide diagnostic information about these individuals. Of those in contact with services, 42% met criteria for major affective disorder and 10% for bipolar disorder. It is reasonable to assume that the rates of depression might be lower in those not in contact with the services, so the overall rate may have been lower than 42%.

It does appear that depression is more common in non-fatal self-harm than it is in suicide. This is true even when comparable methods of assessment are used. In a sample of 202 suicides in New Zealand, Beautrais (2001) found that 56% met diagnostic criteria for a mood disorder, according to information supplied by a significant other. She compared this to patients who had made a medically serious but non-fatal suicide attempt, also using a significant other as a source of information for direct comparability. She found that 78% of the attempters met criteria for a mood disorder. Even where data are not restricted to medically serious attempters, there is a high rate of depression in parasuicide. For example, Haw et al. (2001) found that 71% of their unselected sample of 150 self-harm patients presenting at accident and emergency departments met diagnostic criteria for major depressive episode (only one patient met criteria for bipolar disorder).

To summarise, depression is common in those who commit suicide, and especially in those who attempt suicide. Estimates vary considerably, and there is no definitive figure in either case. However, it appears likely that somewhere between one-third and one-half of those who commit suicide are depressed, whereas between one-half and three-quarters of attempters are depressed.

BiPolar Explained

BiPolar Explained

Bipolar is a condition that wreaks havoc on those that it affects. If you suffer from Bipolar, chances are that your family suffers right with you. No matter if you are that family member trying to learn to cope or you are the person that has been diagnosed, there is hope out there.

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