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September 1965

Possibility of a Biochemical Test for Suicidal Potential: An Analysis of Endocrine Findings Prior to Three Suicides

Author Affiliations

From the National Institute of Mental Health, Psychosomatic Section, Adult Psychiatry Branch. Project Chief, Depression Studies (Dr. Bunney) and Career Development Officer, USPHS (Dr. Fawcett).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1965;13(3):232-239. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1965.01730030038006

Introduction  THIS REPORT has been written to pose the question: Could a biochemical test aid in the prediction of suicidal intent in depressed patients? To our knowledge the question has not been considered previously in the literature. Serial determinations of urinary 17hydroxycorticosteroids (17-OHCS), ratings of suicidal behavior, and clinical data obtained during the course of hospitalization are presented from three patients who subsequently committed suicide. Similar data is reported from a comparison group of 33 depressed inpatients. The suicides occurred during the course of five years of study which involved contact with 250 depressed patients, 36 of whom were treated in our inpatient setting.The problem of the clinical assessment of suicidal patients has received considerable attention in the literature and has been extensively reviewed by Farberow and Shneidman.1 Despite this body of work approximately 19,000 deaths by suicide are reported each

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