What is the role of drug treatment in the prevention of suicide?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

Medication use is based on the patient’s underlying mental disorder. Each mental disorder requires specific medications and adequate treatment of the underlying psychiatric illness consistently appears to be the most effective use of medication in suicidal patients. For example, a patient with a major depression feels hopelessness and helplessness. These perceptions lead the individual to suicidal ideation and plans. Once that person’s safety has been assessed and assured, the use of an antidepressant is indicted to lift and reverse the despair.

Alternatively, a patient with schizophrenia experiences self-destructive command hallucinations telling that person to commit suicide. Once the patient’s safety has been established, an antipsychotic medication is indicated.

The key to diagnosis is taking the patient’s psychiatric history and conducting a thorough mental status examination.


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