Mental Illness and Suicide - Facts

Although the great majority of people who suffer from a mental illness do not die by suicide, having a mental illness does increase the likelihood of suicide compared to people who do not have one.

  • An estimated 2-15% of persons who have been diagnosed with major depression die by suicide. Suicide risk is highest in depressed individuals who feel hopeless about the future, those who have just been discharged from the hospital, those who have a family history of suicide and those who have made a suicide attempt in the past.
  • An estimated 3-20% of persons who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder die by suicide. Hopelessness, recent hospital discharge, family history, and prior suicide attempts all raise the risk of suicide in these individuals.
  • An estimated 6-15% of persons diagnosed with schizophrenia die by suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of premature death in those diagnosed with schizophrenia. Between 75 and 95% of these individuals are male.
  • Also at high risk are individuals who suffer from depression at the same time as another mental illness. Specifically, the presence of substance abuse, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder put those with depression at greater risk for suicide.
  • People with personality disorders are approximately three times as likely to die by suicide than those without. Between 25 and 50% of these individuals also have a substance abuse disorder or major depressive disorder.
  • People who die by suicide are frequently suffering from undiagnosed, undertreated, or untreated depression.

Substance Use Disorders - Facts

Suicide risk is increased by both legal and illicit substance use. Research has addressed the increased risk for particular substance use (e.g., alcohol), as well as multiple drug use. Substance use disorders as it is used here includes intoxication, binge drinking, withdrawal, as well as substance dependence and substance abuse. Substance use disorders and suicide occur more frequently among youth and adults, compared to older persons. For particular groups at risk, such as American Indians and Alaskan Natives, depression and alcohol use and abuse are the most common risk factors for completed suicide.


Alcohol and substance abuse problems contribute to suicidal behavior in several ways. Persons who are dependent on substances often have a number of other risk factors for suicide (e.g., runaway and homeless youth). In addition to being depressed, they are also likely to have social and financial problems. Substance use disorders can be common among persons prone to be impulsive, and among persons who engage in many types of high-risk behaviors that result in self-harm.

Alochol-Related Suicides

  • Between 40 and 60% of those who die by suicide are intoxicated at the time of death. An estimated 18-66% of those who die by suicide have some alcohol in their blood at the time of death.
  • An estimated 1-6% of individuals with alcohol dependency will die by suicide. People who are addicted to alcohol are at higher risk if they also suffer from depression. At the time of death by suicide, 50-75% of alcohol-dependent individuals are suffering from depression.
  • Adolescents who die by suicide are more likely to use a firearm than another method if they have alcohol in their blood at the time of death.
  • Suicide rates among 18-20 year-olds were found to decrease among several states where the minimum legal drinking age was raised to 21.

From the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention
A collaborative effort of SAMSHA, CDC, NIH, HRSA and HIS