Background. Utilizing a prospectively designed community sample, we set out to estimate the rate of newly-incident suicidal ideation and attempts (non-fatal suicide behaviour) in a community sample, to evaluate antecedent sociodemographic characteristics and psychiatric disorders, and to assess use of mental health services in relation to non-fatal suicide behaviour.
Method. Prospectively-gathered data was utilized from 3481 continuing participants in the 13-year follow-up of the Baltimore sample of the NIMH Epidemiologic Catchment Area survey interviewed in 1981, 1982 and 1993/6.
Results. The incidence of suicide attempts was estimated at 148·8 per 100000 person-years and ideation at 419·9 per 100000 person-years. Persons in the youngest age group, in the lowest socio-economic status, and previously married persons were at increased risk for non-fatal suicide behaviour during the follow-up interval. Persons who reported suicidal ideation at baseline were more likely to report having attempted suicide at follow-up (RR = 6·09, 95% CI 2·58–14·36). Psychiatric disorders, especially depression and substance abuse, were associated with new-onset of non-fatal suicidal behaviour. While persons who reported newly-incident suicidal behaviour were more likely to report use of mental health services, few said that suicidal ideation or attempts were the reason for the visits.
Conclusions. Suicidal ideation is a common and important antecedent to suicide attempts and deserves more attention in community and general medical settings.