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Suicidal Behavior and Mortality in First-Episode Psychosis

Nordentoft, Merete DrMSc*†‡; Madsen, Trine PhD; Fedyszyn, Izabela PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: May 2015 - Volume 203 - Issue 5 - p 387–392
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000296
Review Articles

Suicide is a serious public health problem, with more than 800,000 deaths taking place worldwide each year. Mental disorders are associated with increased risk of suicide. In schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, the lifetime risk of suicide death is estimated to be 5.6%. The risk is particularly high during the first year of the initial contact with mental health services, being almost twice as high as in the later course of the illness. The most consistently reported risk factor for suicide among people with psychotic disorders is a history of attempted suicide and depression. Suicide risk in psychosis in Denmark decreased over time, most likely because of improved quality of inpatient and outpatient services. There is a high proportion of young people with first-episode psychosis who attempted suicide before their first contact with mental health services. This finding suggests that the mortality rates associated with psychotic disorders may be underreported because of suicide deaths taking place before first treatment contact. However, currently, no data exist to confirm or refute this hypothesis. Attempted suicide can be an early warning sign of later psychotic disorder. Data from different studies indicate that the risk of suicide attempt during the first year of treatment is as high as 10%. The most important risk factors for attempted suicide after the first contact are young age, female sex, suicidal plans, and a history of suicide attempt. Early intervention services are helpful in first-episode psychosis, and staff members should, in collaboration with the patients, monitor the risk of suicide and develop and revise crisis plans.

*Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen; †iPSYCH—The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Psychiatric Research; and ‡Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of Denmark, Mental Health Center Copenhagen, Denmark.

Send reprint requests to Merete Nordentoft, DrMSc, Mental Health Center Copenhagen, Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of Denmark, Bispebjerg Bakke 23, 2400 Copenhagen, Denmark. E-mail:

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