World Schizophrenia Day: Why schizophrenics are more prone to suicide attempts

Schizophrenia is a chronic disabling mental disorder characterized by fragmented thinking, wherein patients are unable to manage emotions, think clearly or relate to others. The mental condition is strongly linked to an increased risk of suicide attempts, which means there is an association between the presence of symptoms, such as auditory hallucinations and delusions, and an increased risk of suicide among these patients. A recent study by the University of Toronto revealed an association between schizophrenia and the probability of attempting suicide.

Schizophrenics abused physically during childhood more likely to attempt suicide

For the purpose of the study, lead author Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Institute for Life Course and Aging, along with his colleagues, reviewed 21,744 Canadians, of whom 101 reported they had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The study focused on the epidemiology of suicidal behavior in patients with schizophrenia and stated that the risk of completed and attempted suicide among individuals with schizophrenia shot to 39.2 percent, as compared to 2.8 percent in people who didn’t report this disorder. The study also found that schizophrenics who had been physically abused during their childhood were five times more likely to have attempted suicide.

“Even after taking into account most of the known risk factors for suicide attempts, those with schizophrenia had six times the odds of having attempted suicide in comparison to those without schizophrenia,” said Professor Fuller-Thomson.

“When we focused only on the 101 individuals with schizophrenia, we found that women and those with a history of drug or alcohol abuse and/or major depressive disorder were much more likely to have attempted suicide,” said coauthor Bailey Hollister and a recent U of T social work graduate.

Preventive mechanism: Role of anti-inflammatory drugs

Scientists are edging closer to figuring out if there is any sure shot way to cure schizophrenia. It cannot be cured, but professionals must rule out multiple factors, such as brain tumors and other medical conditions (as well as other psychiatric diagnoses such as bipolar disorder). Although much effort has gone into finding better ways to treat it, it often takes a decade for people to be properly diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Mounting evidence suggests that schizophrenia could be treated with low-cost anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, as these patients show high levels of inflammation in their brain — also true for patients already suffering from this disorder.

According to a related report, published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Psychiatry in 2015, it may be possible to prevent schizophrenia by calming the brain’s immune system. Carried out by the Imperial College London and the King’s College London both in the U.K., the University of Padova, Italy, and the University of Texas Health Science Center, the study revealed that brain scans of patients showed a higher activity of microglial cell — serving as the primary immune cells for the brain and central nervous system — in high-risk individuals when compared with the healthy group. This means that if detected early, schizophrenia could potentially be prevented in at-risk patients using simple anti-inflammatory drugs.

Available treatment options

Schizophrenia often begins at a slow pace; however, sometimes, it may develop in stages, with symptoms increasing in severity with the progression of the disease. Signs of this mental health condition may vary; therefore, it is important to understand various symptoms to get in touch with the relevant treatment options.

The 24/7 Mental Health Helpline can help you find effective treatments for various mental health illnesses so that you get back your psychological and emotional well-being. You may call our 24/7 helpline number at 855-653-8178 or chat online to know about various mental health rehabilitation centers.