Background: Persons with psychotic illnesses have an increased risk for suicide, especially early in the illness. Sufficient knowledge allowing for early recognition is lacking. Objectives: To describe suicide behaviors before and during the 4 years following first psychiatric hospitalization, examine associations of demographic and psychiatric risk factors, and develop a suicide risk index. Method: Data came from the Suffolk County Mental Health Project, a first-admission cohort (n = 529). Cox regression was used to study associations of risk factors to suicide behaviors; a summary suicide behavior risk index was also tested. Results: Prior to first admission, 28.0% (n = 148) of the cohort had attempted suicide. During the 4-year follow-up, 13.6% (n = 72) of the cohort attempted suicide (29.7% of those with previous attempts and 7.3% making their first attempt) and 3 respondents died of suicide. The significant predictors at index admission of subsequent attempts were prior attempts or ideation, severity of depressive symptoms and thought disorder, lifetime substance abuse, and younger age. Suicide ideation was predicted by the same variables with the addition of insight into illness and with the exception of age at admission. A 3-category risk index was created; 61.1% of those who made a suicide attempt were in the highest risk group (n = 44/72). Conclusion: The current study confirms and extends previous research showing that risk factors early in the course of illness are predictive of subsequent ideation and attempts. The risk index may be a useful adjunct in identifying individuals likely to benefit from preventive interventions
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