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Do Undiagnosed Suicide Decedents Have Symptoms of a Mental Disorder?

Title: Do Undiagnosed Suicide Decedents Have Symptoms of a Mental Disorder?.
Name(s): Joiner, Thomas E, author
Buchman-Schmitt, Jennifer M, author
Chu, Carol, author
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Journal Article
Date Issued: 2017-12-01
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Psychological autopsy studies consistently report that the rate of detected mental disorders among suicide decedents is below 100%. This implies three possibilities: (a) a subset of suicide decedents did not have a mental disorder at the time of death; (b) all suicide decedents suffered from a mental disorder, but some were undetected due to methodological limitations; and/or (c) suicide decedents with an undetected mental disorder displayed significant and perhaps subclinical features of a mental disorder. In this article, we examined these possibilities by evaluating the differences in symptoms and stressors between suicide decedents who were undiagnosed and those diagnosed with a mental disorder at the time of death. We reviewed 130 case studies of community-based suicide decedents originally described in Robins' (1981) psychological autopsy study. Without exception, suicide decedents in Robins' sample suffered either from a clearly diagnosable mental disorder or displayed features indicative of a significant, even if subclinical, presentation of a mental disorder. Undiagnosed and diagnosed suicide decedents did not significantly differ with regards to demographics, violence of suicide method, suicide attempt history, the number and intensity of stressful life events preceding death, and whether their death was a murder-suicide. Although clearly not all who suffer from mental disorders will die by suicide, these findings imply that all who die by suicide appear to exhibit, at minimum, subclinical psychiatric symptoms with the great majority showing prominent clinical symptoms. We conclude with clinical implications and recommendations for future study.
Identifier: FSU_pmch_28685838 (IID), 10.1002/jclp.22498 (DOI), PMC5690847 (PMCID), 28685838 (RID), 28685838 (EID)
Keywords: Mental disorder symptoms, Psychiatric illness, Psychological autopsy, Stressful life events, Stressors, Suicide, Suicide decedents
Grant Number: T32 MH093311
Publication Note: This NIH-funded author manuscript originally appeared in PubMed Central at
Subject(s): Adult
Mental Disorders/diagnosis
Mental Disorders/epidemiology
Middle Aged
Suicide/statistics & numerical data
Persistent Link to This Record:
Host Institution: FSU
Is Part Of: Journal of clinical psychology.
Issue: iss. 12, vol. 73

Choose the citation style.
Joiner, T. E., Buchman-Schmitt, J. M., & Chu, C. (2017). Do Undiagnosed Suicide Decedents Have Symptoms of a Mental Disorder? Journal Of Clinical Psychology. Retrieved from