It is often assumed that mental disorder is a usual, if not invariable antecedent to suicide. However, studies based on data derived from coroner's records, postmortem interviews with relatives, and like sources have given estimates of the proportion of individuals with overt psychiatric disorder at the time of the suicidal act which vary from 20% 1 to 94%,5 and it seems likely that such a wide divergence stems more from differing criteria accepted as evidence of mental disorder than from true differences of sampling, culture etc.
It is indeed difficult to formulate and apply reliable criteria of mental health even for a living population. Most, however, would agree that admission to a psychiatric hospital provides an objective if crude measure of the presence of overt psychiatric disorder.
The question may be asked—"To what extent does the occurrence of a psychiatric illness necessitating admission