The Role of Psychopathology and Suicidal Intention in Predicting Suicide Risk: A Longitudinal Study
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Objective: In this study, we describe psychological symptoms, any relationship with suicidal intention in a sample of subjects recently attempting suicide and the predictive value of this association in later completed suicide. Methods: An assessment was made of 467 suicidological consultations carried out by the Suicidology Unit of the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, University of Padua, on 421 patients admitted to hospital following attempted suicide in the 5-year period 1990-1994. Suicidal intention was appraised by the Intent Score Scale (ISS). Suicide mortality was assessed after a mean follow-up period of 3.5 years. Results: Psychiatric evaluation was completely negative in only 8% of cases. The most commonly identified symptom was depressed mood (79% of cases, 22% severe depression), followed by anxiety (43% of cases, 32% severe anxiety). From the study, it emerged that psychopathology seemed to influence suicidal intent, where this was characterized by severe depression. Anxiety and other symptoms appeared to have a secondary role. Assessments of suicidal intent showed that intention heightened as the number of symptoms increased. The symptom 'anxiety' did not prove to have a significant bearing on assessment of the seriousness of suicidal intention, whereas severely depressed mood did. The total number of subsequent suicide victims was 5.5%. During consultation relating to the index parasuicide, these subjects did not manifest a discriminate psychopathological profile (the only distinguishing characteristic was anxiety, which was less frequently identified in suicide victims), but did present a more positive personal and family psychiatric history. Conclusions: In subjects who had recently attempted suicide, the psychopathological profile appeared to be related to suicidal intent, where this was characterized by severe depression. Anxiety and other symptoms seemed to have a secondary role. Nonetheless, both total scores and subscores should be taken into consideration when assessing suicidal intention through the ISS. The psychopathological profile and ISS score following attempted suicide do not appear to permit prediction, in the medium to long term, of subsequent completed suicide.