Suicide in dermatological patients

J A Cotterill, W J Cunliffe
British Journal of Dermatology 1997, 137 (2): 246-50
Sixteen patients, seven men and nine women, who committed suicide after presenting with dermatological problems to two dermatologists, are described. Most of the patients had either a body image disorder (dysmorphophobia) or acne. In addition, patients with long-standing and debilitating skin disease may become depressed enough to commit suicide and there is always an attendant risk of suicide in patients with established, severe psychiatric problems, who are referred to dermatologists with concurrent skin disorders. It is important to recognize that patients with dermatological non-disease, and particularly women with facial complaints, may be extremely depressed and at risk of suicide. Facial scarring, particularly in men, may be an 'at risk' factor for suicide, emphasizing the positive early therapeutic role of isotretinoin. Funding problems in regard to provision of this drug could have potentially fatal consequences. The provision of a liaison clinic within a dermatology department may have an important role in managing patients thought to be at risk of suicide.

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