Schizophrenia suicide rates are alarmingly high. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (2009), 40 percent of schizophrenics attempt suicide and 10 percent succeed. The relationship between suicide and schizophrenia is complex, with multiple factors affecting schizophrenia suicide risk factors.
Hallucinations, Suicide and Schizophrenia
Auditory hallucinations are common effects of schizophrenia. A person may hear voices talking negatively about her or commanding her to do things. Auditory hallucinations are usually upsetting in nature, since these voices may suggest violent or self-destructive acts.
Despite this, only rarely do the hallucinatory effects of schizophrenia increase suicide risk. The NIMH (2009) reports that only 2 percent of suicides among people with schizophrenia occur due to “voices.” Other factors have more influence on schizophrenia suicide risks.
Schizophrenia Suicide Risk Factors and Gender
According to Medscape (1998), schizophrenia suicide rates are higher among men than women, with a male to female ratio of 3:2. In the general population, this ratio is 4:1. The effects of schizophrenia, it seems, make female sufferers significantly more likely to complete suicide than their healthy counterparts.
Age, Suicide and Schizophrenia
The effects of schizophrenia appear at odds with the tendency for suicide rates to increase with age. While schizophrenia suicide risk remains high throughout life, schizophrenia suicide rates are highest during young adulthood.
A possible explanation is that schizophrenia symptoms usually present during young adulthood. Male schizophrenics have the greatest risk of suicide 10 to 12 years younger than female sufferers, meaning that women tend to develop schizophrenia later in life than men.
Other Schizophrenia Suicide Risk Factors
Schizophrenia suicide risk factors include a number of risks also seen in the general population. People who are socially isolated or chronically unemployed have higher suicide rates, regardless of whether they have schizophrenia. Suicide rates are also higher among people who have made prior suicide attempts.
Clinical depression is one of the more common effects of schizophrenia and suicide risk factors. It may be that feelings of overwhelmingness and hopelessness cause suicide more than depression, but evidence confirming or disproving this theory is unavailable.
Schizophrenia suicide rates are high among people who were highly functional before the effects of schizophrenia developed, possibly because they’re more aware of schizophrenia’s effects on their lives and mental processes. People with a history of low functionality and poor coping skills also have an increased risk of suicide associated with schizophrenia.
Suicide and Schizophrenia Treatment
Schizophrenia suicide rates increase with rates of hospitalization. The link between schizophrenia and suicide also increases with hospital discharge, although why this is remains a mystery. People suffering the effects of schizophrenia may be at higher risk for suicide when treatment improves symptoms and they can think clearer.
Noncompliance with medication increases a schizophrenic’s chance of suicide. High levels of antipsychotics are linked to increased schizophrenia suicide risk, but this may be due more to disease severity than any negative drug effects. More severe effects of schizophrenia require more aggressive treatment, thereby increasing the risk of suicide.
Medscape Psychiatry and Mental Health eJournal. (1998). Suicide and schizophrenia: Correlates and risk factors. Retrieved July 8, 2010, from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/430625_3
National Institute of Mental Health. (2009). What about suicide? Retrieved July 8, 2010, from http://www.healthyplace.com/thought-disorders/nimh/schizophrenia-and-suicide/menu-id-1156/
Raymont, V. (2001). Suicide in schizophrenia – how can research influence training and clinical practice? Retrieved July 8, 2010, from http://pb.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/25/2/46