Year: 2020 Source: Crisis. (2020). 41(2), 105-113. SIEC No: 20200346

Abstract. Background: People who have mental illness are at increased risk of suicide. Therefore, identifying “typical” trajectories to suicide in this population has the potential to improve the effectiveness of suicide prevention strategies. Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the pathways to suicide among a sample of Victorians with a diagnosed mental illness. Method: Victorian Suicide Register (VSR) data were used to generate life charts and identify typical life trajectories to suicide among 50 Victorians. Results: Two distinct pathways to suicide were identified: (1) where diagnosis of mental illness appeared to follow life events/stressors; and (2) where diagnosis appeared to precede exposure to life events/stressors. Some events acted as distal factors related to suicide, other events were more common as proximal factors, and still others appeared to act as both distal and proximal factors. Limitations: The data source might be biased because of the potential for incomplete information, or alternatively, the importance of some factors in a person’s life may have been overstated. Conclusion: Strategies to reduce suicide need to consider the chronology of exposure to stressors in people’s lives and clearly need to be different depending on whether proximal or distal risk factors are the target of a given strategy or intervention.