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Am J Psychiatry. 1993 Jan;150(1):108-12.

Suicidal behaviors in adult psychiatric outpatients, I: Description and prevalence.

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Department of Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY 10467-2490.



Because the findings of previous studies of suicidal behaviors in psychiatric outpatients may not necessarily generalize to outpatients with a wide spectrum of psychiatric diagnoses, the authors evaluated the prevalence of suicidal behaviors in a large general psychiatric outpatient clinic whose patients represented a full spectrum of psychiatric illness.


A total of 651 patients participated in the study between 1987 and 1989. These patients had sought treatment at the outpatient psychiatry department of a private nonprofit hospital. Before being interviewed for treatment, all patients were given a comprehensive self-rating survey packet that included the Harkavy Asnis Suicide Survey and the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-90. The Harkavy Asnis Suicide Survey is a self-report questionnaire that assesses demographic variables, current and past history of suicidal behaviors of the patient as well as family members and peers, and a detailed description of each previous attempt.


Fifty-five percent of the patients had a history of suicidal ideation, and 25% reported at least one previous suicide attempt. Approximately half of the suicide attempters reported multiple attempts. The predominant methods of attempt were overdose (53%), jumping (17%), and wrist cutting (17%). Suicidal behavior was prevalent in most diagnostic groups. The rates of suicidal ideation among patients with mood disorders (major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder), adjustment disorders, and alcohol/substance abuse were significantly greater than that of the patients with generalized anxiety disorder.


The authors conclude that suicidal behavior is prevalent among patients who seek treatment in a general outpatient department.

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