Schizophrenia and Suicide
Prevention of Suicide in Schizophrenia
Researchers have identified important risk factors for suicide in schizophrenia. It may be difficult, though, to recognize the early signs that a person is at risk.
For example, a person may be at greater risk in the period after hospital discharge. People with schizophrenia often perceive the hospital as a safe haven. And they see staffers and other patients as the central people in their life. So hospital discharge often triggers feelings of hopelessness.
Throughout the course of schizophrenia, careful assessments of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts and behaviors are vital. This is especially true for people who have increased awareness of how serious their disease is.
It's true a person's increased awareness of the illness can lead to clinical improvements. But it also can contribute to suicidal thoughts in younger, previously high-functioning people who may recognize how much they've lost.
To assess the risk of suicide, doctors and caregivers must be attentive and sensitive to the person's sense of loss.
Many antidepressants and antipsychotics carry warnings of increased risk for suicidal thinking and behavior in young adults, adolescents, and children.
For now, evidence suggests that the most effective way to prevent suicide in schizophrenia is a combination of:
- Active treatment of depressive symptoms
- Improved treatment adherence
- Maintaining special vigilance in patients with risk factors, especially those who've had significant losses.