Suicide and suicidal behavior

Definition of Suicide and suicidal behavior

Suicide is the act of deliberately taking one’s own life. Suicidal behavior is any deliberate action with potentially life-threatening consequences, such as taking a drug overdose or deliberately crashing a car.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Suicidal behaviors almost always occur in people with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and alcohol dependence.


Most people who develop thoughts about suicide have already been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, or some other psychiatric disorder. As a result, they may continue to have symptoms, even when they are receiving treatment.


A person may need emergency measures after attempting suicide. First aid, CPR, or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation may be needed.

Expectations (prognosis)

Suicide attempts and threats should always be taken seriously. About one-third of people who attempt suicide will repeat the attempt within 1 year, and about 10% of those who threaten or attempt suicide eventually do kill themselves.


Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 2/14/2010

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