Suicide and suicidal behavior

Yari Gvion, Alan Apter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Suicidal behavior is a major public health problem. As it has for decades, suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in the western world. This paper reviews the literature and the latest developments on the research and knowledge of suicide behavior and death from suicide. The keywords: suicide, psychopathology, mental pain, impulsivity, aggression and communication difficulties were entered into databases: PubMed, PsychLit and ProQuest. Significant articles were scrutinized for relevant information. According to WHO estimates for the year 2020, approximately 1.53 million people will die from suicide, and ten to 20 times more people will attempt suicide worldwide. These estimates represent on average one death every 20 seconds and one attempt every one to two seconds. Although of low predictive value, the presence of psychopathology is probably the single most important predictor of suicide. Accordingly, approximately 90 percent of suicide cases meet criteria for a psychiatric disorder, particularly major depression, substance use disorders, cluster B personality disorders and schizophrenia. Other more transient factors that reflect an imminent risk of suicide crisis and therefore require immediate intervention include unbearable mental pain and related experiences of depression and hopelessness. Problems with help-seeking, social communication and self-disclosure also pose a suicide risk, as do personality traits of aggression and impulsivity. All these factors are highly correlated with suicidal behavior across psychiatric samples and nosological borders. Although suicidal behavior has been well studied, empirically and clinically, the definition of the different subtypes and phenotypes of suicidal behaviors and mechanisms underlying some of the risk factors (such as aggression, impulsivity, suicide intent) remain unclear. Reducing the increasing trend of suicide rates among the most vulnerable populations will require further research. Hopefully this review will contribute to the understanding of this phenomenon and to the development of preventive initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Health Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Aggression
  • Communication difficulties
  • Impulsivity
  • Mental pain
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Suicide


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