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Mounting evidence supports the notion that personality is crucial in the aetiopathology of common mental disorders, but studies that allow for aetiological conclusions are lacking. The aim of the present study was thus to provide a test of the predisposition model.
We analysed data from the Zurich Cohort Study, a 30-year longitudinal epidemiological community study of an adult cohort (n = 591) from 1979 to 2008. Personality was assessed in 1988 with an established personality questionnaire, and psychopathology through seven semi-structured interviews between 1979 and 2008.
On the basis of personality assessment from 1988, used as predictor of subsequent psychopathology (1993–2008), while adjusting for sex and prior mental disorders (1979–1988), neuroticism related significantly with future major depression episodes [odds ratio (OR) = 1.41], anxiety disorders (OR = 1.32) and depression treatment use (OR = 1.41). When participants with a past 10-year history (i.e. 1979–1988) of either major depression, anxiety disorder or depression treatment use were excluded, neuroticism in 1988 still significantly predicted first incidence (i.e. 1993–2008) of major depression episodes (OR = 1.53) and depression treatment use (OR = 1.84).
The present study provides compelling evidence that the personality trait of neuroticism constitutes an independent risk factor for subsequent major depression episodes and use of respective professional treatments, which serves as a proxy for particularly severe and impairing depression episodes. We therefore advocate that personality traits could provide clinically useful prognostic information when considered carefully.
Whether the public stigma associated with mental illness negatively affects an individual, largely depends on whether the person has been labelled ‘mentally ill’. For labelled individuals concealing mental illness is a common strategy to cope with mental illness stigma, despite secrecy's potential negative consequences. In addition, initial evidence points to a link between stigma and suicidality, but quantitative data from community samples are lacking.
Based on previous literature about mental illness stigma and suicidality, as well as about the potential influence of labelling processes and secrecy, a theory-driven model linking perceived mental illness stigma and suicidal ideation by a mediation of secrecy and hopelessness was established. This model was tested separately among labelled and unlabelled persons using data derived from a Swiss cross-sectional population-based study. A large community sample of people with elevated psychiatric symptoms was examined by interviews and self-report, collecting information on perceived stigma, secrecy, hopelessness and suicidal ideation. Participants who had ever used mental health services were considered as labelled ‘mentally ill’. A descriptive analysis, stratified logistic regression models and a path analysis testing a three-path mediation effect were conducted.
While no significant differences between labelled and unlabelled participants were observed regarding perceived stigma and secrecy, labelled individuals reported significantly higher frequencies of suicidal ideation and feelings of hopelessness. More perceived stigma was associated with suicidal ideation among labelled, but not among unlabelled individuals. In the path analysis, this link was mediated by increased secrecy and hopelessness.
Results from this study indicate that among persons labelled ‘mentally ill’, mental illness stigma is a contributor to suicidal ideation. One explanation for this association is the relation perceived stigma has with secrecy, which introduces negative emotional consequences. If our findings are replicated, they would suggest that programmes empowering people in treatment for mental illness to cope with anticipated and experienced discrimination as well as interventions to reduce public stigma within society could improve suicide prevention.
There are only a small number of prospective studies that have systematically evaluated standardised diagnostic criteria for mental disorder for more than a decade. The aim of this study is to present the approximated overall and sex-specific cumulative incidence of mental disorder in the Zurich cohort study, a prospective cohort study of 18–19 years olds from the canton of Zurich, Switzerland, who were followed through age 50.
A stratified sample of 591 participants were interviewed with the Structured Psychopathological Interview and Rating of the Social Consequences of Psychological Disturbances for Epidemiology, a semi-structured interview that uses a bottom-up approach to assess the past-year presence of 15 psychiatric syndromes. Seven interview waves took place between 1979 and 2008. Approximated cumulative incidence was estimated using Kaplan–Meier methods.
Rates of mental disorder were considerably higher than those generally reported in cross-sectional surveys. We found rates ranging from 32.5% for major depressive disorder to 1.2% for Bipolar I disorder. The cumulative probability of experiencing any of the mental disorders assessed by age 50 was 73.9%, the highest reported to date. We also found that rates differed by sex for most disorders, with females generally reporting higher rates of mood, anxiety and phobic disorder, and males reporting higher rates of substance- and alcohol-related disorders.
These findings confirm those of other long-term prospective studies that indicate the nearly universal nature of disturbances of emotion and behaviour across the life span. Greater community awareness of the normative nature of these experiences is warranted. An important area of future research is study long-term course and stability to determine who among those with such disturbances suffer from chronic disabling mental disorders. Such longitudinal studies may aid in directing services and intervention efforts where they are most needed.
Seasonal as well as weekly cycles in suicide have been described, replicated and poorly understood for a long time. In Western countries, suicides are typically least frequent on weekends and most frequent on Mondays and Tuesdays. To improve understanding of this phenomenon a strategy is required which focuses on anomalous findings beyond the regular patterns. Here, we focused on instances where the weekly suicide patterns disappear or are interrupted.
We used data from Swiss and Austrian mortality statistics for the periods 1969–2010 and 1970–2010, respectively. First, the data were cross-tabulated by days of the week and the available socio-demographic information (sex, age, religious affiliation and region). Second, time series of cumulated daily frequencies of suicide were analysed by seasonal Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) models which included intervention effects accounting for Easter and Pentecost (Whit) holidays.
First, the cross tabulations showed that weekly cycles may be smoothed above all in young persons and smoothed in drowning, jumping and car gas exhaustion suicides. Second, the ARIMA analyses displayed occasional preventive effects for holidays Saturdays and Sundays, and more systematic effects for holiday Mondays. There were no after effects on Tuesdays following holiday Mondays.
In general, the weekend dip and the Monday backlog effect in suicide show striking similarities to the Advent season effect and are interpretable within the same template. The turning points between low and high frequencies possibly provide promising frames for the timing of prevention activities.
Prevalence and covariates of subclinical psychosis have gained increased interest in the context of early identification and treatment of persons at risk for psychosis.
We analysed 9829 adults representative of the general population within the canton of Zurich, Switzerland. Two psychosis syndromes, derived from the SCL-90-R, were applied: ‘schizotypal signs’ and ‘schizophrenia nuclear symptoms’.
Only a few subjects (13.2%) reported no schizotypal signs. While 33.2% of subjects indicated mild signs, only a small proportion (3.7%) reported severe signs. A very common outcome was no ‘schizophrenia nuclear symptoms’ (70.6%). Although 13.5% of the participants reported mild symptoms, severe nuclear symptoms were very rare (0.5%). Because these two syndromes were only moderately correlated (r = 0.43), we were able to establish sufficiently distinct symptom clusters. Schizotypal signs were more closely connected to distress than was schizophrenia nuclear symptoms, even though their distribution types were similar. Both syndromes were associated with several covariates, such as alcohol and tobacco use, being unmarried, low education level, psychopathological distress and low subjective well-being.
Subclinical psychosis symptoms are quite frequent in the general population but, for the most part, are not very pronounced. In particular, our data support the notion of a continuous Wald distribution of psychotic symptoms in the general population. Our findings have enabled us to confirm the usefulness of these syndromes as previously assessed in other independent community samples. Both can appropriately be associated with well-known risk factors of schizophrenia.
To examine stigma- and knowledge-related barriers to help-seeking among members of the general population.
In a representative survey of young to middle-aged Swiss adults (n = 8875), shame about a potential own mental illness, perceived knowledge about and satisfaction with one's mental health, psychiatric symptoms and attitudes towards help-seeking were assessed.
A latent profile analysis of all participants yielded two groups with different attitudes towards help-seeking. Relative to the majority, a one-in-four subgroup endorsed more negative attitudes towards seeking professional help, including psychiatric medication, and was characterized by more shame, less perceived knowledge, higher satisfaction with their mental health, younger age, male gender and lower education. Among participants with high symptom levels (n = 855), a third subgroup was reluctant to seek help in their private environment and characterized by high symptoms as well as low satisfaction with their mental health.
Shame as an emotional proxy of self-stigma as well as poor subjective mental health literacy may be independent barriers to help-seeking. Interventions to increase mental health service use could focus on both variables and on those individuals with more negative views about professional help, in the general public as well as among people with a current mental illness.
This study aimed to identify the course of unmet needs by patients with a first episode of schizophrenia and to determine associated variables.
We investigated baseline assessments in the European First Episode Schizophrenia Trial (EUFEST) and also follow-up interviews at 6 and 12 months. Latent class growth analysis was used to identify patient groups based on individual differences in the development of unmet needs. Multinomial logistic regression determined the predictors of group membership.
Four classes were identified. Three differed in their baseline levels of unmet needs whereas the fourth had a marked decrease in such needs. Main predictors of class membership were prognosis and depression at baseline, and the quality of life and psychosocial intervention at follow-up. Depression at follow-up did not vary among classes.
We identified subtypes of patients with different courses of unmet needs. Prognosis of clinical improvement was a better predictor for the decline in unmet needs than was psychopathology. Needs concerning social relationships were particularly persistent in patients who remained high in their unmet needs and who lacked additional psychosocial treatment.
To examine the effect of time on suicide after bereavement among widowed persons.
The data were extracted from Swiss mortality statistics for the period 1987–2005. The time between bereavement and subsequent death, specifically by suicide, was determined by linkage of individual records of married persons. The suicide rates and the standardized mortality ratios in the first week/month/year of widowhood were calculated based on person-year calculations.
The annualized suicide rates in widowed persons were highest in the first week after bereavement: 941 males and 207 females per 100 000. The corresponding standardized mortality ratios were approximately 34 and 19 respectively. In the first month(s) after bereavement, the rates and the ratios decreased, first rapidly, then gradually. Except in older widows, they did not reach the baseline levels during the first year after bereavement.
The suicide risk of widowed persons is increased in the days, weeks and months after bereavement. Widowed persons are a clear-cut risk group under the aegis of undertakers, priests and general practitioners.
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