The purpose of this study was to examine the clinical features of alcohol-dependent suicide attempters and the treatment they received before and after the index attempt. A total of 47 subjects with current DSM-III-R alcohol dependence were identified from a systematic sample of 114 suicide attempters in Helsinki. All of them were comprehensively interviewed after the attempt, and the treatment they had received was established from psychiatric and other health-care records and follow-up interviews. Most had a history of psychiatric (83%) or substance abuse (83%) treatment. During the final month before the attempt, half of the subjects (51%) had been treated by health care services; 11% had received disulfiram-treatment and 6% had received psychotherapy. Subjects complied with recommended aftercare more often when they had been actively referred. After 1 month, 64% were being treated by health care services. However, only 14% were receiving disulfiram-treatment and 9% were receiving psychotherapy. These findings suggest that the quality and activity of treatment offered to suicide attempters with alcohol dependence should be improved.
Whether suicide victims having suffered from major depression differ in their characteristics and treatment of depression received in various settings prior to death has been unknown.
From a random sample representing all completed suicides in Finland within a 12-month period, cases with a best estimate diagnosis of current unipolar DSM-III-R major depression (N = 71) were comprehensively analyzed using the method of psychological autopsy. Suicide victims with major depression were classified according to treatment setting, and the victims in different settings--psychiatric care (N = 32), medical care (N = 27), and no contact with health care (N = 12)--were compared.
The sex distribution of suicides who had major depression was equal within psychiatric care; but in medical care or without contact with health care, 77% (30 of 39) were men (p = .018). Significantly more victims in psychiatric than in medical care had communicated to attending personnel their intent to commit suicide (59% [19 of 32] vs. 19% [5 of 27], p = .004). Antidepressants were received by 60% of victims in psychiatric care but only 16% in medical care (p = .002).
Suicide victims with major depression differ in sex distribution and communication of suicide intent among treatment settings, which may complicate the ability to generalize research findings, particularly from psychiatric to medical care. Promoting suicide prevention in major depressive disorders would seem to require improving not only the quality of treatment within psychiatric care, but also basic skills in recognizing and treating depression in medical care, especially for male patients.
The purpose of this study was to examine a sample representing all suicide victims with current DSM-III-R major depression in Finland within 1 year in aspects relevant to suicide prevention, including comorbidity, clinical history, current treatment, suicide methods, and communication of suicide intent.
Using the psychological autopsy method, the authors examined all 71 suicide victims with current unipolar DSM-III-R major depression, taken from a random sample of 229 subjects representing 16.4% of all suicide victims in Finland in 1 year.
The majority (85%) were complicated cases with comorbid diagnoses, and comorbidity varied according to the subjects' sex and age. Three-quarters had a history of psychiatric treatment, but only 45% were receiving psychiatric treatment at the time of death. Most suicide victims had received no treatment for depression. Only 3% had received antidepressants in adequate doses, 7% weekly psychotherapy, and 3% ECT. None of the 24 psychotic subjects had received adequate psychopharmacological treatment. Few (8%) had used an antidepressant overdose as a suicide method. Men had received less treatment for depression and had more commonly used violent suicide methods.
Although about half of the suicide victims with major depression were receiving psychiatric care at the time of death, few were receiving adequate treatment for depression. There were significant sex differences in current and previous treatment and suicide methods. For suicide prevention in major depression, it would seem crucial to improve treatment and follow-up, for males with major depression, in particular.
The authors' goal was to investigate the treatment received by suicide attempters with major depression before and after the index attempt.
Forty-three patients with current unipolar DSM-III-R major depression were identified in a diagnostic study from a systematic sample of suicide attempters in Helsinki. All were comprehensively interviewed and investigated after the attempt, and their treatment was ascertained from psychiatric and other health care records and follow-up interviews.
During the month just before the suicide attempt, seven (16%) of the patients had received antidepressants in adequate doses, seven had received weekly psychotherapy, and none had received ECT. Although almost all of the patients complied with the recommended aftercare following the suicide attempt, after 1 month only seven (17%) were receiving antidepressants in adequate doses, nine (22%) were receiving weekly psychotherapy, and none had been given ECT.
It seems that few suicide attempters with major depression receive adequate treatment for depression before the suicide attempt and that, despite their well-known high risk for suicide, the treatment situation is not necessarily any better after the attempt. These findings suggest that the recognition of depression and the quality of treatment received for major depression among suicide attempters should be investigated and improved to prevent suicide.