Almost startling in its consistency, a new peer-reviewed study published in PLOS ONE (April 2, 2014) , a full decade after the often-cited McGill University metastudy on the relationship between mental illness and suicide risk, produced essentially the same major finding — within 2%. The Australian and American scientists responsible for the new research paper, titled The Burden Attributable to Mental and Substance Use Disorders as Risk Factors for Suicide: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, compiled worldwide data from the World Health Organization (WHO) to show that 85% of people who die by suicide have a debilitating mental disorder. One difference: this study includes addiction as a major mental disorder, which reflects more recent classifications in the mental health field.
The underlying WHO data doesn’t fully represent mid to lower income countries so even this high a percentage linking suicide and mental illness no doubt underestimates the real numbers of people who die by their own hand in places where national and local health systems simply don’t count them. For better or worse, this research certainly covers most of us living in the US.
Sometimes the numbers provide important nuances to help us understand who, how, where, when and even why…
- Nearly 1 million people complete suicide every year with over 50% aged between 15 and 44 years , .
- Over 80% of suicides occur in low to middle income countries and close to 50% occur in India and China alone , .
- the risk of suicide was 7.5 (6.2–9.0) times higher in males and 11.7 (9.7–14.1) times higher in females with a mental or substance use disorder compared to males and females with no mental health or addiction disorder
- Suicide from firearms, car exhaust and poisoning are more common in high income countries and suicide from pesticide poisoning, hanging and self-immolation are more common in low to middle income countries .
There is also a telling graph of which disorders rank as the most and least dangerous in terms of suicide risk, with major depression leading the way: Lastly, the authors also looked at prevention strategies, and found that equipping general practitioners to diagnose and treat major depression had the highest value as a strategy, with a few caveats, as usual having to do with the quality of care. ” This was one of the few interventions for which there was good evidence of effectiveness as a suicide prevention strategy in a recent review by Mann and colleagues. That said, ensuring that care from general practitioners is evidence-based requires further consideration, given findings that rates of minimally adequate treatment for depression are lower among patients treated solely by general practitioners or in the general medical care sector, compared to those treated by specialist mental health providers.”
The unavoidable point: treatable mental disorders if left untreated put you at a much higher risk for suicide. What else is there to say?