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Lithium and suicide

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 10 July 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4449
  1. Anne Berghöfer, senior scientist
  1. 1Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics, Charité-Universitätsmedizin, Berlin 10098, Germany
  1. Anne.Berghoefer{at}

With its unequivocal antisuicidal effects lithium is still a useful drug

Losing a family member or friend to suicide leaves survivors feeling helpless, bewildered, and guilty for the rest of their lives. The loss of a patient to suicide is one of a doctor’s worst nightmares. For patients with affective disorders, the lifetime risk of committing suicide is substantial, and this has serious social and economic implications. The prevention of suicide and treatment of suicidal behaviour in those with major psychiatric disorders has therefore become the focus of therapeutic activities at the individual and social level. In a linked paper (doi:10.1136/bmj.f3646), Cipriani and colleagues present an update of their earlier meta-analysis on the effectiveness of lithium in preventing suicide in patients with mood disorders.1

Although lithium first proved its usefulness in the acute and long term treatment of affective disorders more than 60 years ago, its …

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