OBJECTIVES: Understanding the characteristics of suicide attempts in people undergoing treatment for first episode psychosis (FEP) may have implications for risk management at a service level and local suicide prevention strategies. Although studies have focused on identifying individual-level risk factors for suicide attempts in this patient group, none have yet conducted an in-depth profile of suicide attempts. The aim of the present study was to examine the characteristics of suicide attempts in young people during the initial 18 months of treatment for FEP. METHOD: A retrospective medical record audit study of a cohort of patients accepted for treatment at a specialist FEP service between 1/12/2002 and 30/11/2005. RESULTS: Of 607 patients, 73 (12%) attempted suicide during treatment. Of these 73, most (72.6%) attempted suicide on one occasion. The majority of attempts (85.3%) occurred when patients were treated as outpatients and were in regular contact with the service. Suicide attempts tended to be impulsive (77.6%), triggered by interpersonal conflict or distress due to psychotic symptoms. Two thirds involved self-poisoning, usually by overdose of prescribed medications. All inpatient suicide attempts were by hanging or strangulation. Individuals infrequently sought help immediately before or after the attempt; if help-seeking occurred, informal sources of support were contacted. CONCLUSIONS: To reduce the number of suicide attempts among individuals treated for FEP, psychiatric services could consider: restricting the amount of medication prescribed per purchase; individualised suicide risk management plans for all newly admitted patients, including those who do not appear to be at risk; stringent reviews of inpatient psychiatric units for potential ligature points; providing information and psycho-education for significant others in recognition and response to suicide risk; fostering patients' problem solving and conflict resolution skills; and regular risk assessment and close monitoring of patients, particularly during the high risk period of 3 months after a suicide attempt.