Studies have shown that over 90% of people who die from suicide have one or more
psychiatric disorders at the time of their death. Luckily, there are ways to
treat and control these disorders and potentially prevent suicide.
Comorbidity (having more than one illness at the same time) and how severe the
disorders are can increase someone's risk for suicide. Catching the
warning signs early and seeing a doctor or other health care provider
for a diagnosis and treatment plan could
make it less likely that your friend would commit suicide.
Depression and Bipolar Disorder
Studies have consistently shown that having depression or bipolar disorder
(mood disorders) increases your risk for suicide significantly. In fact, it's
estimated that people with mood disorders are 12 to 20 times more likely to
commit suicide than people without a mood disorder.
Mood disorders, especially in the depressive phase, are the most commonly
diagnosed mental illness in suicide deaths. People with bipolar disorder have
the highest risk, especially when they are in mixed episodes (simultaneous
presence of ups and downs).
Suicides associated with major depressive disorder tend to occur early in the
course of the illness, especially in younger people. Depressive and bipolar
disorders both tend to be highly comorbid
with other disorders, such as anxiety, panic attacks, alcohol use, substance
use and insomnia, and each of these is considered to be a risk factor for
Alcohol/Substance Use Disorders
Evidence suggests that 25% of people who commit suicide abuse alcohol or are
dependent on alcohol, and that 50% have alcohol in their blood at the time of
There is a greater likelihood for suicide to occur among people who abuse
alcohol and suffer from depressive disorders than among people with major
depression or alcoholism alone.
Unlike other mental illnesses, people who abuse alcohol and ultimately take
their own lives, tend to commit suicide late in the disease.
Abusing illicit drugs is common among adolescents and young adults who commit
suicide. It has been suggested that the spread of substance abuse may have
added to the two to fourfold increase in youth suicide since 1970. Some studies
have shown that it is the number of substances abused (not the quantity of a
single substance) that may be important in determining suicide risk.
Attend a National Alcohol Screening Day event in your area to learn more. Click
here to find an event in your area.
Schizophrenia is a disease of disturbed thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and
behaviors. It primarily affects younger people and often involves delusions and
hallucinations, both visual and auditory, that are often paranoid in nature.
There is a 4% lifetime risk of suicide in people with schizophrenia. Suicide
may be more likely to occur during the earlier years of schizophrenia, with
even higher risk right after a hospital discharge. The risk continues
throughout life, and seems to be higher in schizophrenics with a chronic
illness, multiple psychiatric hospitalizations, or a previous suicide attempt.
Studies have shown that 40%-53% of people with schizophrenia have had
suicidal ideation at some point in their lives, and 23%-55% reported
previous suicide attempts.
Suicide may be more likely to occur when the person is in a period of
improvement after a relapse, or during periods of depressed mood.
Schizophrenia occurs in 1% of the population. Learn more about the
signs, symptoms and available treatments for schizophrenia.
Personality disorders include a wide range of disorders that respond to a
variety of treatments.
Studies have shown that 1/3 of people who commit suicide have a personality
disorder. Keep in mind that people with personality disorders may be at
increased risk for suicide because of other common factors, including
unemployment, financial difficulty, family discord, and other interpersonal
conflicts or loss. Also, comorbid diagnoses,
often depressive symptoms or substance use disorders, are frequent in people
with personality disorders, and thus increase the risk for suicide even more.
About 40% of people who attempt suicide have a personality disorder, and
40%-90% of people with a personality disorder attempt suicide at some point in
Eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa, increase a person's risk for
suicide. Studies have shown that women with anorexia are more likely to have
suicidal thoughts than those with bulimia or other disorders. Also, many people
with a history of suicide attempts may have increased rates of abnormal eating
behaviors. The combination of youth, disturbed eating behaviors, and possible
comorbid mental illnesses make people with eating disorders highly susceptible
to the risk of suicidal behaviors.
Learn more about
eating disorders and available treatments
People with an anxiety disorder are 6 to 10 times more likely than the general
population to commit suicide. One study showed that 11% of people who committed
suicide had an anxiety disorder; however, it's possible that this estimate is
too low because of some factors that might mask anxiety, like alcohol use or
"Tragically, suicide is a fatal response to a treatable illness, usually
depression." Douglas Jacobs, MD, President & CEO, Screening for Mental
Health and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School