More Psychiatrists & Psychiatric Beds Correlated With Suicides


Countries with more psychiatrists and mental health beds have higher suicide rates, according to a study in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. Researchers from Denmark and India drew data from the World Health Organization, the United Nations Statistics Division and the CIA World Fact Book to compare suicide rates in 191 countries. The authors write that “although these associations should be interpreted with caution, as the issues are complex, we suggest that population-based public health strategies may have greater impact on national suicide rates than curative mental health services for individuals.”

Abstract →

Rajkumar, A., Brinda, E., Duba, A., Thangadurai, P., Jacob, K.; National suicide rates and mental health system indicators: An ecological study of 191 countries. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. September–December 2013, 36(5–6) 339–342.

Of further interest:
Quick Study: More Psychiatrists = More Suicides? (Pacific Standard)

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Antidepressants may increase suicidal thoughts or behaviors in some children, teenagers, and young adults, especially within the first few months of treatment or when the dose is changed. Patients on antidepressants and their families or caregivers should watch for new or worsening depression symptoms, unusual changes in behavior, or thoughts of suicide. Such symptoms should be reported to the patient’s healthcare provider right away, especially if they are severe or occur suddenly. ABILIFY® (aripiprazole) is not approved for use in pediatric patients with depression.

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  2. Well, THAT is certainly a sobering finding! Very similar to the WHO findings about psychosis outcomes in developing countries being much better. Sounds to me like the technological approach to mental health strikes out yet again!

    — Steve

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  3. Why do I have the feeling that this article will be greeted with professional lectures about the difference between correlation versus causation…. Insistance that these statistics merely point to a causual relationship between public health treatment and suicide.

    Are you kidding me?

    I say to these professionals (and they’re out there): “Look, it’s not therapeutic to put a dog in a kennel…. How do you expect a human being to heal by locking them up, treating them worse than you would ever treat a dog?”

    Once again, it ain’t rocket science.


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      • It is well documented that many people experience involuntary psychiatric treatment as an assault. Some describe it as similar to rape where the assault strikes to the core of your body, mind and soul. As with sexual assaults, our mental health system needs to respect the very basic human requirement at such times that ―No means ―No. It is also well documented that many suicidal people are struggling with complex personal histories of trauma. For these people, involuntary psychiatric treatment further traumatizes them, often worsening or indeed sometimes triggering suicidal feelings. More generally, if we understand suicidality as a crisis of the self –i.e. rather than the consequence of some ―mental illness (see below) –then it simply does not make sense to further attack an already fragile sense of self. It is hard to imagine anything less helpful for the suicidal person than to be assaulted by those you seek help from at a time of such crisis.

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