A major psychiatric study has pinpointed a number of symptoms which may indicate someone is going to attempt to commit suicide. The study departs from the standard set of symptoms which have been widely accepted for years and could prove useful as a means of prevention.
The major international study drew in information from the UK, US, France, Spain, Russia, Italy and Switzerland and will be presented in a report to the conference of the European College of Neuropscyhopharmacology (ECNP) which is taking place in Amsterdam this week (29-31 August).
According to the study, an individual is up to 50% more likely to attempt suicide if he or she indulges in "risky behaviour" such as promiscuity or dangerous driving. "Psychomotor agitation" – such as pacing around rooms or wringing hands – is also an indicator, as is "impulsivity" – defined as acting with "little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences".
The author of the report, Dr Dina Popovic from the University of Barcelona, said the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was not paying attention to these indicators. Part of the problem was that patients who visit doctors suffering from depression may not volunteer them as symptoms. "This is an important message for all clinicians," said Popovic. "The strength of this study is that it's not a clinical trial with ideal patients – it's a big study from the real world."
Around 800,000 people commit suicide each year according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). In the UK, around 6,000 people take their own lives annually. In young men suicide is the biggest single cause of death. According to the Office for National Statistics currently the UK suicide rate stands at 11.9 deaths per 100,000 people – its highest level since 2004.