The British Journal of Psychiatry
The Relationship between Attempted Suicide, Depression and Parent Death
JOHN BIRTCHNELL

Abstract

1. Of 500 admission to a Scottish psychiatric hospital, 104 patients were known to have attempted suicide and a further 74 to have contemplated or threatened it. The ratio of men to women was 1.:1.7 in the attempted suicide group and 1:1 among those who had neither attempted nor threatened it. The attempted suicide group contained relatively more young women.

2. The 104 attempted suicide patients were matched for age and sex with 145 non-suicidal patients.

3. A significantly higher proportion of attempted suicide patients were severely depressed. This remained so even when suicidal tendencies were excluded from the depression score.

4. Significantly more of the attempted suicide patients had experienced early parent death or were illegitimate. This was mainly due to an excess of parent death occurring from ages 10 to 19. The incidence of early parental absence was greatest among severely depressed suicidal patients.

5. It was considered that the excess of early parental absence in suicidal patients was not entirely accounted for by the larger proportion of such patients who were severely depressed.

6. The 55 patients who attempted suicide at the time of admission were matched for age and sex with 110 non-suicidal patients.

7. Significantly more recent attempted suicide patients had experienced parental death one to five years before admission.