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Encephale. 2009 Apr;35(2):176-81. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2008.02.009. Epub 2008 Jun 13.

[Clinical features of suicide occurring in schizophrenia (I). Risk-factors identification].

[Article in French]

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Service hospitalo-universitaire de psychiatrie adulte, hôpital Sainte-Marguerite, Marseille, France.



Suicide is the leading cause of premature death in schizophrenia. Approximately 10 to 13% of deaths in schizophrenia are explained by suicide, despite widespread availability of generally effective antipsychotic treatments and suicide attempts have been reported among 20 to 50% of patients. This relatively low ratio of attempts/suicide is consistent with greater lethality of means - more violent - and intents - less ambivalence - in this population.


Many studies have focused on risk factors and clinical characteristics for completed and/or attempted suicide. Commonly, sociodemographic risk factors for suicide are male sex, younger age and, among women, being unmarried, divorced or widowed. Previous suicidal behaviour is a strong risk factor for suicide and contrary to the common view, schizophrenic patients often communicate their suicidal intents shortly before death. Moreover, family history of suicide is associated with a heightened risk of suicide and is independent of the diagnosis, according to the growing literature that shows that vulnerability to suicidal behaviour is independent of psychiatric diagnosis. Suicide can occur throughout the entire course of schizophrenia. This is particularly true in those high-risk periods: early phase of the disease, active illness phase, period of relapse or during a depressive episode. The role of insight and positive symptoms remains unclear and probably needs further studies. Although not specifically for people with schizophrenia, hopelessness is a major risk factor and tragic loss is often presented as a trigger for suicide. It has been suggested that treatment side-effects, such as akathisia are associated with suicidal behaviour.


A better knowledge of risk and protective factors is necessary to prevent suicide and suicidality.

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