Schizophrenia and Suicide

1% of the world’s population suffers from schizophrenia or psychosis, a condition in which people lose their motivation and organizational ability to a huge extent, and may have convincing experiences which do not actually exist, such as hearing voices, or becoming totally convinced about unusual ideas.

Fifty percent of such people will attempt to end their lives at some stage during their illness, and about 10% of such people will die from suicide.

International medical studies have shown that the illness called schizophrenia is almost identically common all over the world, affecting roughly 1% of the population, with men and women being roughly equally affected. It is almost certain that the illness is a chemical problem, partly genetic, and partly due to other factors we still do not understand.

Understanding Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is not “split personality”. Many people have marked swings in their behaviour, but this is not schizophrenia. Typically, schizophrenia starts in teenage years with the affected person progressively seeming a bit more odd and unmotivated, so that they stop studying effectively, may drop out of the their normal activities, and rapidly fail to achieve their normal targets and roles in life. This severe loss of motivation and ability to organise their lives may or may not be accompanied by more florid symptoms, such as hearing voices, or having strange intense convictions (delusions).

People with schizophrenia are particularly at risk of suicide early in the illness, or if they have frequent attacks of the illness. Also, developing depression during the illness increases the risk of feeling suicidal.

Schizophrenia is a condition where early intensive intervention with medication seems to be the most successful approach, both in term of minimizing the impact of schizophrenia on the person’s life, and also in terms of avoiding suicide attempts and death by suicide.