Suicide Attempt a Stronger Predictor of Completed Suicide than Previously Thought

September 30, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


While a history of suicide attempt is understood to be a risk factor for suicide death, a new study suggests that the strength of the association may be stronger than previously thought. Researchers set out to address the limitations of previous findings by focusing on first lifetime suicide attempts, including those that were fatal, in a population-based sample derived from the Rochester Epidemiology Project. They found that almost 60 percent of individuals died on their first suicide attempt, and that the majority of those who died used guns. J. Michael Bostwick, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist and the study’s lead author, said, “Almost no other study in the literature includes individuals who die on that first attempt. A large part of the reason that such a high proportion of the total suicides occurred on first attempt can be attributed to firearm usage. . . . [N]early three-fourths of all deaths at first suicide attempt were caused by using firearms.” The study also found that those who survived an initial attempt were at reduced risk for suicide death in the subsequent year if a psychiatric follow-up appointment was scheduled for them; however, data on appointment attendance was not collected. The authors suggested that the year after a first attempt is a crucial period of time in which to prevent repeat attempt fatality.

Spark Extra! Read the study abstract.