[Repeat suicide attempts: characteristics of repeaters versus first-time attempters admitted in the emergency of a Tunisian general hospital]

A Mechri, A Mrad, F Ajmi, F Zaafrane, G Khiari, S Nouira, L Gaha
L'Encéphale 2005, 31 (1 Pt 1): 65-71

UNLABELLED: Repeat suicide attempts constitute a special problem in suicidology. It seems that the excess mortality by suicide is even higher among the suicide repeaters. The objectives of this study were to estimate repeat suicide attempts frequency among a sample of suicide attempters admitted in the University Hospital Emergency of Monastir (Tunisia), to compare their features to those of first-time attempters and to determine factors associated with repeat suicide.

METHOD: A transversal survey involves a review of all patients committing suicide attempt and who are admitted in the emergency service during the second semester of 1999. Study variables included: demographic parameters, family and personal psychiatric history, axis I psychiatric disorder and circumstances of the present suicide attempt. Also, subjects were evaluated with the following scales: Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and The Social Readjustment Rating Scale of Holms and Rahe.

RESULT: Among the 90 suicide attempters, 42.2% (n = 38) had made at least one previous suicide attempt. More repeaters than first-time attempters were divorced or separated: 21.1% versus 5.8% (p = 0.05). Belonging to a numerous family (n > or = 4) was more frequent in the repeaters group: 73.7% versus 46.2% (p = 0.01). The two groups did not differ as to level of education but were significantly different with regard to their professional activity: 60.5% of repeaters were unemployed versus 34.6% of first-time attempters (p = 0.01). Repeaters had more loaded family psychiatric disorders: 26.3% versus 7.7% (p = 0.03). However there were practically no differences between repeaters and first-time attempters in regard of suicide in their families. Personal previous history of repeaters was characterized by frequency of psychiatric hospitalization: 50% versus 11.5% (p = 0.00005). Sexual abuse was more frequent in repeaters group but this difference was not significant. Alcohol and drug abuse were not frequent in the two groups. Concerning the actual suicide attempt, the most frequently diagnosed disorder was adjustment disorders. However depressive and psychotic disorders were significantly more frequent in the repeaters group: 34.2% versus 13.4% (p = 0.05). Repeaters had more frequently elevated scores (> 14) in MADRS: 71.1% versus 48.1% (p = 0.01), and raised intensity of stress factors lived during the six months preceding actual suicide attempt: 68.4% versus 42.3% (p = 0.04). Nevertheless we hadn't noticed any differences between the two groups regarding the methods used or the motives.

CONCLUSION: Differences in the characteristics of repeaters and first-time attempters are therefore of interest when discussing future suicidal risk and should clear on preventive actions in order to face the increase of suicidal recidivism. A broad based, multidisciplinary intervention approach is recommended.

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