Suicidal ideation and attempts among people with severe mental disorder, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, comparative cross-sectional study
© The Author(s) 2018
Received: 22 February 2018
Accepted: 25 May 2018
Published: 1 June 2018
People with severe mental disorders are associated with increased risk of suicide and suicide attempts compared to the general population. In low and middle-income countries, research concerning suicide attempts and completed suicide among people living with severe mental disorder is limited. The objective of this study was to assess suicide and attempts in people with severe mental disorder at Amanuel Mental Specialized Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Institution-based cross-sectional study was conducted in August–September 2016. Patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were selected using systematic random-sampling technique. The composite international diagnostic interview was used to assess suicide that was administered by psychiatry professionals. Substance use disorder was assessed through face-to-face interviews using structured clinical interview of DSM-IV.
A total of 542 (272 schizophrenia + 270 bipolar disorder) patients were included in the study. One hundred nineteen (43.75%) of schizophrenic participants and 128 (47.1%) of bipolar participants have suicidal ideation. Fifty-six (20.7%) of schizophrenic participants and 58 (21.3%) of bipolar participants have suicidal attempt. Among the schizophrenic and bipolar patients who had suicidal ideation, 31.8 and 32.60% had co-morbid substance use disorder, respectively.
In this study, which was performed in Ethiopia, suicidal ideation and attempt were shown to be common problems in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Co-morbid substance use disorder was a more frequent phenomenon among patients with suicidal ideation and attempt. Attention should be given to screen and assess suicidal ideation and attempt in persons with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Suicide is a huge but largely preventable health problem causing almost half of all violent deaths and resulting in one million fatalities each year, as well as economic costs in billions of dollars. Estimates suggest that suicide could rise to 1.5 million by 2020. Globally, suicide represents 1.4% of the global burden of diseases . Suicide is usually a cause of great distress to victim, family, friends, and community and largely to the nation [2, 3].
A recent review of the literatures estimated that up to 50% of schizophrenic patients attempt suicide and up to 13% of all deaths due to suicide are attributable to schizophrenia . Compared to the general population (suicide prevalence about 1%), people with schizophrenia have a more than eightfold increased risk of suicide . Suicide is the major cause of premature death among individuals with schizophrenia. Evidences indicated that up to 10% of patients with schizophrenia die by suicide [15–17]. Being young, male, and in the early years of the illness and having a history of multiple previous episodes or previous suicide attempts are the common risk factors for suicide in schizophrenia [18–21]. A substantial percentage of patients with schizophrenia also attempt suicide, with estimates of lifetime occurrence ranging from 18 to 55% .
Evidences indicated that persons with bipolar disorder are 30 times more likely to make a suicide attempt during their lifetime compared to those with no psychiatric disorder . Close to one-third of persons with bipolar disorder attempt suicide [23, 24]. Researchers estimate that in the general population 29% of bipolar patients made at least one suicide attempt during their lives. In clinical samples, 25–56% of the patients with BD report at least one suicide attempt during their lives and 10–19% die by suicide [22–24]. A number of factors have been reported to be associated with the occurrence of suicide attempts in bipolar disorder and co-morbid substance use disorders (SUDs) [23, 25–27] is among those factors.
In persons with severe mental disorders co-morbid substance use disorders (SUD) are very common throughout the course of illness, with an estimated prevalence of 50–60% [28–31]. Nicotine and alcohol use disorders are particularly common among persons with severe mental disorders [8, 9]. Substance use disorder co-morbidity is eventually associated with worse outcome and higher suicidal risk [29, 30].
Evidences have shown that people with severe mental disorders (SMD) are at higher risk of suicide. However, in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), including Ethiopia there is limited research concerning suicide attempts and suicide ideations in people with severe mental disorders (SMDs). The objective of this study was to assess suicide and suicide attempts in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Study setting and population
Institution-based cross-sectional study was conducted in August 2016 at Amanuel Mental Specialized Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Amanuel Mental specialized hospital is the only hospital in Ethiopia giving services for mental health for long time. A total of 542 patients; 272 patients with the diagnosis of schizophrenia and 270 with bipolar disorder were included in the study. Study participants were included using systematic random-sampling technique.
Inclusion and exclusion criteria
All patients with established DSM-IV diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who had treatment follow-up assessment were included in this study. Suicidal gesture or attempt was defined as a self-inflicted act associated with intent to die or use of a method with potential for lethality.
Data collection instruments
Demographic variables were collected using semi-structured questionnaire. Data were collected by trained psychiatry professionals. The composite international diagnostic interview (CIDI) was administered by psychiatry professionals and used to assess suicide. Substance use disorder was assessed through face-to-face interviews using structured clinical interview of DSM-IV (SCID).
Data processing and analyses
The statistical program for social science (SPSS version 20) was used for data analyses. Socio-demographic (age, sex, marital status, areas of residence, religion, education) and clinical factors (diagnosis, history of alcohol, cannabis, nicotine and khat abuse or dependence) was analyzed and reported using words, tables and charts.
Socio-economic and demographic characteristics
Sociodemographic characteristics of people with severe mental disorders (schizophrenia, n = 270 and bipolar disorder, n = 272) Amanuel Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, August, 2016
Age in years
Place of residence
Suicidal ideation and attempt in patients with severe mental disorders
Distribution of patients with severe mental disorders by suicidal ideation and attempt (schizophrenia, n = 270 and bipolar disorder, n = 272) Amanuel Mental Specialized Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, August, 2016
Substance use disorders in patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders
Distribution of patients with Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder by their substance use disorders (schizophrenia, n = 270 and bipolar disorder, n = 272) Amanuel Mental Specialized Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, August, 2016
Current use disorder
Life time use (ever had used) disorder
Current use disorder
Life time use (ever had used) disorder
Alcohol use disorder
Khat/chat use disorder
Nicotine use disorder
Cannabis use disorder
Any substance use disorder
Poly substance use disorders
This study revealed that the magnitude of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder was comparable with study conducted in high-income country settings [13, 14, 22, 24]. In the current study, 119 (44.1%) of schizophrenic participants and 128 (47.1%) of bipolar participants have suicidal ideation and, 56 (20.58%) of schizophrenic participants and 58 (21.32%) of bipolar participants have suicidal attempt. This finding is in agreement with other studies [13, 22, 24].
In this study, both suicidal ideation and attempt were more commonly seen in people with bipolar disorder compared to those with schizophrenia. This finding is in agreement with other studies that reported significantly higher rates of suicide ideation and attempt among patients with bipolar disorder [13, 14, 22, 24].
Suicidal ideation and attempt are common among patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as compared to evidences suicidal ideation and attempt in general population. These findings are in line with other studies that revealed significantly higher suicidal ideation and attempt in patients with severe mental disorder than general population [9, 11, 12, 14].
Our study revealed that patients with severe mental disorders are using different substances. This finding is in line with other studies  but higher than  and lower than [32, 33]. The possible reasons for this difference might be due to the difference in data collection instrument, socio-demographics and culture. Unlike other studies [32–35], 132 (50.6%) (bipolar patients) and 125 (48.1%) (schizophrenic patients), had used khat in their life time. The possible reasons for this difference might be due to differences in socio-demographics and culture.
Suicidal ideation and attempt were more commonly seen in people with bipolar disorder compared to those with schizophrenia. Co-morbid substance use disorder was a more frequent phenomenon among patients with suicidal ideation and attempt than those without suicidal ideation and attempt was identified in the current study that majority of those who have history of suicidal ideation and attempt have co-occurring substance use disorders as compared to those who have no suicidal ideation and attempt. Co-morbid substance use disorders are common in person with suicidal ideation and attempt. As a result, this indicates the need for further screening and attention of co-morbidity in persons with suicide. Further studies concerning effects and specific relationships between suicide and co-morbid substance use disorders and exploring other factors are recommended.
Limitation of study
This study only assessed the descriptive part. It will be better to asses factors associated with suicidal ideation and attempt.
Both authors conceived the study and were involved in the study design, reviewed the article, analysis, report writing and drafted the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors acknowledge Amanuel Mental Specialized Hospital, Ethiopia for funding the study. The authors appreciate the study participants for their cooperation in providing the necessary information.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Availability of data and materials
Because the sensitivity of the data, the data will not be shared publically but upon request we will avail the necessary data for concerned body.
Consent for publication
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Ethical clearance was obtained from the Institutional Review Board of Amanuel Mental Specialized Hospital. Written informed consent was obtained (after capacity to consent test) from each study participant (care giver) after they were introduced to the purpose of the study and informed about their rights to interrupt the interview at any time. Confidentiality was maintained at all levels of the study.
Amanuel Mental Specialized Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia partially funded the research work.
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