Mental Illness Treatment Prior to Death by Suicide


Treatment of Mental Illness Prior to Suicide: A National Investigation of 12,909 patients, 2001–2016

Research has shown that pharmacological treatment in people with mental illness is an effective suicide prevention strategy, such as lithium or clozapine to reduce suicide risk in patients with severe mental illness. New research from England and Wales examined mental health treatment of people who died by suicide to further understand the role of treatment gaps in suicide deaths among individuals with a psychiatric disorder.

Of the 78,000 individuals who died by suicide in England and Wales between 2001 and 2016, 26% had contact with the mental health system within the 12-months prior to their death. One-quarter of those patients were not receiving the recommended pharmacological treatment at the time of their death. In patients with schizophrenia, more than 30% of individuals were not receiving treatment at the time of their suicide death, the highest non-treatment rate for all the mental illness diagnostic groups in the study. Two-thirds of those individuals were not receiving treatment because they were non-adherent to their prescribed medications. The results indicate that addressing treatment non-adherence in patients with schizophrenia could significantly reduce suicide risk in these patients.

Gianatsi, M., et al. (2020). Treatment of mental illness prior to suicide: A national investigation of 12,909 patients, 2001—2016. Psychiatric Services.