University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Suicidal ideation and attempts among psychiatric patients with major depressive disorder
Doctoral dissertation, November 2006.
This study is part of an ongoing collaborative research and development project, the Vantaa Depression Study (VDS), between the National Public Health Institute, Helsinki and the Department of Psychiatry of Helsinki University Hospital (HUCH), Peijas hospital, Vantaa. The VDS is a prospective, naturalistic cohort study of 269 secondary-level care psychiatric out- and inpatients with a new episode of DSM-IV major depressive disorder (MDD).
269 patients (Nmales=72, Nfemales=197) with a current DSM-IV MDD were interviewed with semistructured interviews to assess all other psychiatric diagnoses. At 6- and 18-month follow-up the interviews were repeated. Suicidal behaviour was investigated both at intake and follow-up by using a psychometric scale (Scale for Suicidal Ideation) and interviewer's questions as well as the patient's psychiatric records. Patients, who reported suicidal ideation while entering the study were followed up weekly, and their level of suicidal ideation, hopelessness, anxiety and depression was measured.
In this study suicidal ideation was common among psychiatric patients with MDD. Almost 60% of the depressed patients reported suicidal ideation and 15% of patients attempted suicide at the baseline. Patients with suicidal ideation or attempts had a clearly higher level of overall psychopathology than non-suicidal patients. During the 18-month follow-up period 8% of patients attempted suicide. The risk of an attempt was markedly higher (RR=7.54) during an episode of major depression compared with a period of remission. Suicide attempt during the follow-up period was predicted by lack of partner, a history of previous suicide attempts and time spent in depression.
Suicidal ideation resolved for most of the suicidal patients during the first 2 to 3 months. The duration of suicidal ideation was longer for patients with an initially higher level of psychopathology. Declines both in depression and hopelessness independently predicted the subsequent decline in suicidal ideation. They both could have a causal role in reversing the suicidal process. Thus effective treatment of depression is a credible measure in suicide prevention.
Patients with suicidal behaviour often received more antidepressants and had more frequent appointments with mental health professionals than non-suicidal patients. Suicidal patients had also more favourable attitudes towards antidepressant treatment and comparable adherence to treatment than those not suicidal.
This study does not support the conception that patient attitudes or adherence to treatments would be a factor differentiating suicidal patients from non-suicidal. Instead, problems with adherence or attitudes seem to be generic to all psychiatric care.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 18.10.2006