Suicide Risk Behavior Patterns In Depression Offer Clues For Prevention, Study Shows

A new study shows that certain risk behaviors in depressed people could be linked to suicide.

The results of the study were presented at the 28th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, according to Medical News Today.

The researchers analyzed 2,811 individuals diagnosed with depression who were a part of the Bridge-II-MIX study – an international study of depression and suicide. Each individual was evaluated by a psychiatrist using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

The results showed that more than 600 participants had already attempted suicide at some point in their lives. Risks of attempting suicide showed to be 50 percent higher when depressed patients exhibited any of the following signs:

  • Risky behavior (reckless driving, promiscuous behavior)
  • Psychomotor agitation (pacing around a room, wringing one’s hands)
  • Impulsivity (acting on a whim, “displaying behavior characterized by little or no forethought, reflection or consideration of the consequences”).

Dr. Dina Popovic, the lead author of the study from the Clinical Research Institute of Biomedical Research in Spain and Barcelona Hospital Clinic, said they found that “depressive mixed states” often precede a suicidal attempt.

“We found that ‘depressive mixed states’ often preceded suicide attempts. A depressive mixed state is where a patient is depressed, but also has symptoms of ‘excitation,’ or mania. We found this significantly more in patients who had previously attempted suicide, than those who had not. In fact, 40 percent of all the depressed patients who had attempted suicide had a ‘mixed episode’ rather than just depression.”

Popovic and her fellow researchers hope that this study will help doctors recognize these symptoms, which will ultimately help lower the number of suicide attempts by appropriate treatments being given.

“In our opinion, assessing these symptoms in every depressed patient we see is extremely important, and has immense therapeutical implications. Most of these symptoms will not be spontaneously referred by the patient, the clinician needs to inquire directly, and many clinicians may not be aware of the importance of looking at these symptoms before deciding to treat depressed patients.”

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with 41,149 suicides reported in 2013 alone. The suicide rate is also four times higher in men than it is in women.

Popovic’s study was released just a week before the annual Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.

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