Background: Suicide is a major public health concern and one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide. People with an at-risk-mental-state (ARMS) for psychosis are more vulnerable to psychiatric co-morbidity and suicide, however, there are limited data from low-middle-income countries. The present study aimed to identify the prevalence of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation along with sociodemographic and clinical correlates of suicidal ideation in individuals with ARMS from Pakistan.
Method: Participants between the age of 16 and 35 years who met the criteria for ARMS based on the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental State (CAARMS), were recruited from the community, general practitioner clinics and psychiatric units across Pakistan (n = 326). Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and Social-Occupational-Functional-Assessment-Scale (SOFAS) were administered to participants.
Results: The prevalence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts in the sample at baseline were 91.1% (n = 297) and 61.0% (n = 199), respectively. There were significant mean differences between groups (mean difference [95% CI]; p-value) without suicidal ideation and with suicidal ideation on measures of MADRS (-5.47 [-7.14, -3.81]; p < .001), CAARMS non-bizarre ideas (-0.29 [-0.47, -0.11]; p = .002) and perceptual abnormalities (-0.23 [-0.41, -0.04]; p = .015).
Conclusion: These findings indicate that suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms are highly prevalent in individuals with ARMS in Pakistan. Given the pivotal developmental stages that ARMS presents, and the poor outcomes associated with co-morbid depression, there is an urgent need to prioritize the development of low-cost and scalable evidence-based interventions to address psychiatric comorbidity and suicidality in the ARMS population in Pakistan.