Background: Several recent studies have reported that serious violence towards self and others is more common in the first episode of psychosis than after treatment. Aim: To estimate the proportion of survivors of suicide attempts during psychotic illness by jumping from a height who had not previously received treatment with antipsychotic medication. Methods: An audit of the medical records of patients admitted to nine designated trauma centres in New South Wales, Australia, after surviving a jump of more than 3 m. Jumping was defined using routine hospital ascribed International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes. The height of the jump and all clinical data were extracted from case notes. Results: The files of 160 survivors of jumps of more than 3 m were examined, which included 70 who were diagnosed with a psychotic illness (44%). Thirty-one of the 70 diagnosed with a psychotic illness (44%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 32-56%) had never received treatment for psychosis and hence were in the first episode of psychosis. One in five (19.4%) of all survivors of a suicide attempt by jumping had an undiagnosed and untreated psychosis that was often characterized by frightening delusional beliefs. Conclusion: A large proportion of the survivors of suicide attempts by jumping were diagnosed with a psychotic illness, which confirms an association between psychosis and suicide by jumping. Some suicides might not have been linked to psychosis had the patient not survived the suicide attempt, suggesting that the contribution of schizophrenia to suicide mortality might have been underestimated in psychological autopsy studies. The finding that nearly half of the survivors diagnosed to have a psychotic illness had never received treatment with antipsychotic medication indicates a greatly increased risk of suicide by jumping in the first episode of psychosis when compared to the annual risk after treatment.
- Attempted suicide
- First episode psychosis