Suicide Risk 15 Times Higher for PTSD Patients: Survey of 36,000 French Citizens Supports Psychotraumatism Screening in Psychiatric Evals

By Sullivan, Michele G. | Clinical Psychiatry News, October 2008 | Go to article overview

Suicide Risk 15 Times Higher for PTSD Patients: Survey of 36,000 French Citizens Supports Psychotraumatism Screening in Psychiatric Evals


Sullivan, Michele G., Clinical Psychiatry News


BARCELONA -- The risk of attempting suicide increases by up to 15 times for patients with posttraumatic stress disorder, compared with those in the general population, a national French mental health survey has found.

Although the survey of 36,000 citizens found a low rate of full-blown posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), those with any lifetime exposure to psychotraumatic events were significantly more likely to have had suicidal thoughts or attempts in the previous month, Dr. Louis Jehel said at the annual congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

"These results support the importance of a systematic psychotraumatism screening in every psychiatric evaluation, to prevent a suicide attempt," said Dr. Jehel, who runs the psychotraumatism and suicide unit at Hospital University Tenon, Paris.

The survey was part of the World Health Organization's general mental health survey. Conducted in France from 1999 to 2003, it included 36,000 people who had participated in structured face-to-face interviews at 47 sites throughout the country.

The Minimal International Neuropsychiatric Interview was the diagnostic tool used. Dr. Jehel extracted data on PTSD, suicide risk, and comorbid psychiatric illnesses from the survey results.

The project assessed psychotraumatism on four levels:

* Subjects exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event, but asymptomatic.

* Subjects confronted with at least one traumatic event who had experienced flashback symptoms.

* Subjects expressing a wider variety of psychotraumatic symptoms, including flashbacks, avoidance, or hyperarousal, in the prior month. …

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