The aims of our study were (1) to examine the socio-demographic, clinical characteristics, autopsy and toxicological findings in 392 youth suicides in Paris, between 1989 through 1996, and (2) to analyze the psychodynamic determinants leading up to the onset of the suicide.
During the eight-year study period 392 suicides involving young people were investigated at the Institute of Forensic Medicine of Paris. Two hundred and sixty victims (66%) were males. The mean age was 22 years in both sexes. Fifteen percent of the victims were below 20 years. Ninety-two percent of the subjects were single. Forty percent of the victims were students, 35% were unemployed. One third of the victims had previously attempted suicide. Thirty-five percent of the subjects used to take psychoactive prescription drugs and some of them had been under the care of a mental health professional at the time of the suicide. In 40% of the cases a suicide note was found near the body. Depression (70% of victims), schizophrenia, (10%), affective disorders, parent-child relational problems, partner relational problems, adolescent antisocial behavior, and borderline personality were found to be the most frequent diseases and stressors involved in the suicides. The suicide was rarely an accidental reaction to stress. It was constantly preceded by situational distress, which led to suicidal ideas if the adolescent failed to cope with problems. Ten percent were known as heroin users. In more than 40% of the cases, the victim's parents were divorced or separated. The most frequent method of suicide was poisoning followed by jumping from a height, gunshot, subway death, and hanging/asphyxia. Among firearms, a handgun was more likely to be used than rifles (85/15%). Tranquilizers were the most frequent psychoactive drugs used for suicide followed by antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants, and barbiturates (10%).
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