Objective: This study compared suicide rates, clinical symptoms, and perceived preventability of suicide among persons in four ethnic groups who completed suicide within 12 months of contact with mental health services.
Methods: The rates and standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) of suicide following contact with mental health services were calculated by using national suicide data from 1996 to 2001 for the four largest ethnic groups in England and Wales: black Caribbean, black African, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi), and white. The study also investigated whether clinical indices of risk show ethnic variations.
Results: A total of 8,029 suicides in the four ethnic groups were investigated. Overall, compared with the SMRs for their white counterparts, low SMRs were found for South-Asian men and women (SMR=.5, 95% confidence interval [CI]=.4-.6 for South-Asian men and SMR=.7, CI=.5-.9 for South-Asian women). High SMRs were found for black Caribbean and black African men aged 13-24 (SMR=2.9, CI=1.4-5.3 for black Caribbean men and SMR=2.5, CI=1.1-4.8 for black African men). High SMRs were found for young women aged 25-39 of South-Asian origin (SMR=2.8, CI=1.9-3.9), black Caribbean origin (SMR=2.7, CI=1.3-4.8), and black African origin (SMR=3.2, CI=1.6-5.7). Some widely accepted suicide risk indicators were less common in the ethnic minority groups than in the white group. There were more symptoms of active psychosis for people from ethnic minority groups who later committed suicide, and perceived preventability was highest among black Caribbean people.
Conclusions: Rates and SMRs varied across ethnic groups. Specific preventive actions must take account of the ethnic variations of clinical indices of risk and include more effective treatment of psychosis.