Context Recent evidence from both clinical and population research has pointed to psychotic symptoms as potentially important markers of risk for suicidal behavior. However, to our knowledge, there have been no epidemiological studies to date that have reported data on psychotic symptoms and suicidality in individuals who have been clinically assessed for suicidal behavior.
Objectives To explore associations between psychotic symptoms in nonpsychotic adolescents and risk for suicidal behavior in (1) the general population, (2) adolescents with psychiatric disorder, and (3) adolescents with suicidal ideation.
Design Two independently conducted case-control clinical interview studies.
Setting Population-based studies in Ireland.
Participants Study 1 included 212 adolescents aged 11 to 13 years. Study 2 included 211 adolescents aged 13 to 15 years. Participants were recruited from schools.
Main Outcome Measures Suicidal behavior and psychotic symptoms, assessed by semi-structured diagnostic clinical interview.
Results Psychotic symptoms were associated with a 10-fold increased odds of any suicidal behavior (ideation, plans, or acts) in both the early and middle adolescence studies (odds ratio [OR], 10.23; 95% CI, 3.25-32.26; P < .001 and OR, 10.5; 95% CI, 3.14-35.17; P < .001, respectively). Adolescents with depressive disorders who also experienced psychotic symptoms were at a nearly 14-fold increased odds of more severe suicidal behavior (suicide plans and suicide acts) compared with adolescents with depressive disorders who did not experience psychotic symptoms (OR, 13.7; 95% CI, 2.1-89.6). Among all adolescents with suicidal ideation, those who also reported psychotic symptoms had a nearly 20-fold increased odds of suicide plans and suicide acts compared with adolescents with suicidal ideation who did not report psychotic symptoms (OR, 19.6; 95% CI, 1.8-216.1).
Conclusions Psychotic symptoms are strongly associated with increased risk for suicidal behavior in the general adolescent population and in adolescents with (nonpsychotic) psychiatric disorder. In both studies, an absolute majority of adolescents with more severe suicidal behavior (suicidal plans and acts) reported psychotic symptoms when directly questioned about this as part of a psychiatric interview. Assessment of psychotic symptoms should form a key part of suicide risk assessment.