Schizophrenia and Suicide
Schizophrenia is strongly linked to a higher-than-normal chance of suicide and suicide attempts.
Suicide prevention can be hard to do, because people with schizophrenia can sometimes act on suicidal thoughts impulsively and without warning. So it’s essential that health care workers, family members, and friends be aware and know what to do.
Risk Factors for Suicide in Schizophrenia Patients
People with schizophrenia are more likely to commit suicide if they are young, male, white, and never married.
The condition is also more likely if someone did well in their everyday life before they were diagnosed with schizophrenia, developed depression after the diagnosis, and have a history of alcohol or other substance abuse and past suicide attempts.
The classic person with schizophrenia who attempts suicide may:
- Be a male under age 30
- Have a higher IQ
- Have been a high achiever as a teen and young adult
- Be painfully aware of schizophrenia's effect on him
Suicide is also more likely in someone who is:
- Socially isolated
- Living in a hospital
- In worsening health
- Suffering from a recent loss or rejection
- Lacking support from other people
- Having family stress or instability
- Fearing that their mental condition could worsen
- Too dependent on treatment or has lost faith in it
Suicide among people with schizophrenia is also linked to:
- Long-term illness
- Family history of suicide
- Past or present history of depression
- Drug abuse
- Being very upset and impulsive
- Suicidal thoughts
- Greater number of prescriptions for schizophrenia medications and antidepressants
- Negative attitudes toward medication and not following their treatment plan
- Not being able to work and being dependent on others
In general, the core symptoms of psychosis -- hallucinations and delusions -- seem to have a weaker link to suicide than symptoms such as:
- Negative outlook on life
- Sense of worthlessness
- Awareness that schizophrenia is negatively affecting how the person thinks
What to Watch For
Keep an eye out for signs that the person feels hopeless or that they have suffered a loss.
You might think that someone who’s in the hospital is going to be OK. But sometimes, suicide risk goes up when the person leaves the hospital. This can happen if they see staffers and other patients as the central people in their life, and then feel hopeless without them.