June 1988

Suicide and Substance Abuse

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1988;45(6):593-594. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1988.01800300091013

The layman may readily say that committing suicide is evidence that a person was of unsound mind. However, the first clear demonstration of the intimate connection between psychiatric illness and suicide was presented by Robins and colleagues1 in 1959. The authors found that nearly all of a consecutive series of 134 suicides had been psychiatrically ill. This finding has been replicated in Seattle,2 in the United Kingdom,3 in Sweden,4*5 in Australia,6 and, most recently, in San Diego.7 It is no longer news. While it is clear that psychiatric illness is a virtually

See also p 589.

necessary precondition for suicide, it is not a sufficient reason in itself. We know that persons suffering from depression, alcoholism, and schizophrenia are at high risk in comparison to those with other psychiatric illnesses and even more so compared with the general population. However, the low proportion of

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