A previous suicide attempt is the largest single factor indicating future suicide risk and death by suicide. Appropriate professional support following a suicide attempt can help to reduce the risk of subsequent attempts.
In Australia, suicide attempts occur most frequently between ages 15-44 years1.
Following a suicide attempt, the risk period for re-attempt is highest on the first day after an attempt and continues to remain high consecutive week following an attempt, regardless of admission to psychiatric or medical care.
The risk of re-attempting suicide remains high throughout a person’s lifetime, but is particularly heightened in the initial year following an attempt.
The risk remains approximately four times higher than those with no history of a suicide attempt five years post-attempt.
Adhering to a care plan and regular medical appointments during this period can help to reduce the risk of a re-attempt.
The presence of personality disorders, particularly major affective disorder and schizophrenia, increases risk of suicide re-attempt. Depressive illness can also contribute to a person’s risk of suicide, although anxiety disorders can be viewed as a protective factor, with evidence suggesting suicide re-attempts are less common in those with diagnosed anxiety disorders.
The circumstances relating to suicide deaths are complex, and co-morbidities can provide contextual information regarding these circumstances. Recent 2018 data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals mood disorders such as depression were the most common mentioned co-morbidity, being present in 43.9% of deaths, this was followed by problems related to substance use which were present in 29.4% of deaths1.
Compliance with individual care plans, including adhering to prescribed medication schedules and behavioural therapy can help prevent suicide re-attempts. Similarly, removing access to lethal means, the presence of strong social connections and an awareness of the help services available can also reduce the risk of a person re-attempting suicide.
Understanding protective and risk factors for suicide re-attempts in Australia would be enhanced with further research in this area.
The causes of suicide are complex and multifaceted. It is important to acknowledge that a person with previous suicide attempts may never experience further suicidal behaviours or thoughts. The presence of protective factors may reduce the risk of suicide.
It is important that the diversity of people with previous suicide attempt is acknowledged. Consideration should be given to other identity-driven needs a person with previous suicide attempt may have that can increase suicide risk, such as belonging to a population group identified as having increased risk of suicide:
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2019). Intentional self harm key characteristics. Retrieved 1 October 2019 from https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstat...