As part of a nation-wide psychological autopsy we examined the differences in DSM-III-R mental disorders, recent life events and other characteristics between urban (n = 143) and rural (n = 85) completed suicides in a random sample of 229 cases from the National Suicide Prevention Project in Finland for the period 1987-1988. Psychoactive substance use disorders (48% vs. 34%), cluster B personality disorders (24% vs. 9%) and psychiatric comorbidity (66% vs. 42%) were found more commonly among urban than rural suicides. Urban suicides were also more often reported to be preceded by a recent separation (25% vs. 8%), whereas rural suicide victims tended to have lacked a close companion of the opposite sex (36% vs. 18%) and to have had physical disorders (56% vs. 40%). Overall, urban and rural suicides may vary with regard to the prevalence of some mental disorders, their comorbidity, and physical disorders, as well as the preceding life situation. This variation may also imply the need for differences in strategies for suicide prevention in each setting.