Children who hear voices and see things that others cannot may be five times more likely to subsequently have suicidal thoughts or attempt to take their own lives, researchers have found.
The findings showed that otherwise healthy people who experience hallucinations or delusions were twice as likely to commit suicide.
"The risk of suicidal thoughts was five or six times higher in children under-12 who had experienced psychosis," said John McGrath, Professor at the University of Queensland in Australia.
"Psychotic experiences appear to be a marker of general psychological distress," McGrath added.
For the study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, the team examined the links between psychotic experiences and suicide risk in the general population, and involved more than 33 000 people from 19 countries.
It did not include people suffering depression, anxiety, schizophrenia. Also, psychotic disorders were more common than expected. "About one in 20 people experience this at some point in their lives," McGrath said.
The results could have significant impact on public health guidelines for doctors screening for suicide risk; because they are rare, they are hard to predict, the researchers said.