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Neurology. 2002 Sep 10;59(5):674-8.

An examination of suicidal intent in patients with multiple sclerosis.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto and Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



To examine neurologic and psychiatric correlates of suicidal intent in a community sample of 140 patients with MS.


Patients with (28.6%) and without lifetime suicidal intent were compared across MS disease-related and psychiatric variables. All subjects were interviewed with 1) the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis 1 disorders (SCID-IV) to determine lifetime prevalence of major depression and anxiety disorders; and 2) the Social Stress and Support Interview to assess psychological stressors. Suicidal intent was documented with questions from the SCID-IV and Beck Suicide Scale. Patients also completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and cognitive testing.


Suicidal patients were significantly more likely to live alone, have a family history of mental illness, report more social stress, and have lifetime diagnoses of major depression, anxiety disorder, comorbid depression-anxiety disorder, and alcohol abuse disorder. By logistic regression analysis, the severity of major depression, alcohol abuse, and living alone had an 85% predictive accuracy for suicidal intent. A third of suicidal patients had not received psychological help. Two-thirds of subjects with current major depression, all suicidal, had not received antidepressant medication.


Suicidal intent, a potential harbinger for suicide, is common in MS and is strongly associated with major depression, alcohol abuse, and social isolation. Suicidal intent is a potentially treatable cause of morbidity and mortality in MS.

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