Schizophrenia Suicide Risk

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Studies have shown that people suffering from Schizophrenia have a higher risk of suicide or attempted suicide than other members of the general public. Depression is a common feature in Schizophrenia and yet it often goes undetected and undiagnosed, mainly because the so called negative symptoms of Schizophrenia can mask an underlying depression. Depression also increases the risk of suicide.

Although figures vary slightly from study to study the overall results indicate that between five and thirteen percent of individuals diagnosed with Schizophrenia will commit suicide. There is no doubt that suicide is a major cause of death in individuals with Schizophrenia.

Most researchers agree that the profile of the Schizophrenic patient most likely to commit suicide is a young, white, single, male who functioned well prior to the onset of the illness and who suffered depression after a psychotic episode and who has a history of substance abuse. However, this doesn’t mean that a person fitting this description is going to commit suicide. Although anyone can commit suicide there are other risk factors to be aware of.

Risk factors for suicide in Schizophrenia

•    Depression
•    Feelings of hopelessness
•    Previous suicide attempts
•    Social isolation
•    Living alone
•    Stress in the family
•    Relationship problems
•    Recent loss or rejection
•    Substance abuse
•    Homelessness
•    Lack of support
•    Hospitalisation
•    Not sticking to treatment plan
•    Fear of mental disintegration

Some researchers have found that individuals who functioned well prior to the onset of Schizophrenia symptoms and who are fully aware of the implications of their disorder and the impact that it is likely to have on their future lives are more at risk.

However, other researchers claim that a full understanding of the nature of Schizophrenia can actually help the individual to cope and does not increase the risk of suicide.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists a literature review revealed that the suicide risk in individuals with Schizophrenia was related more to the affective symptoms of Schizophrenia such as depression and feelings of hopelessness and a previous history of suicide attempts or threats of suicide rather than the positive symptoms of hallucinations and delusions.

To reduce the risk of suicide in people with Schizophrenia it’s important to be aware of the risk factors and to seek help as soon as possible if there are any indications or signs that the individual might be having suicidal thoughts.

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