Many Visit Emergency Room in Year Prior to Suicide

Frequent attendance is associated with earlier suicide after final emergency department visit
By Beth Gilbert
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- Many mental health patients who later commit suicide visit the emergency department in the year prior to their death, with some individuals visiting frequently, according to a study published online July 26 in the Emergency Medical Journal.

Damian Da Cruz, of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and colleagues examined emergency department records of 286 individuals who died within 12 months of mental health contact in North West England between 2003 and 2005.

The researchers found that 124 individuals (43 percent) had visited the emergency department at least once in the year before their death, with 35 of these individuals (28 percent) visiting more than three times. Compared to other emergency department attendees, those who visited on more than three occasions, as well as those with a clinical history of alcohol misuse, died by suicide significantly sooner after their final, nonfatal visit. The most common reasons for the final, nonfatal visit were self-harm (39 percent), requests for psychiatric assistance (28 percent), physical injury/illness (24 percent), and alcohol intoxication (7 percent).

"Although psychiatric services clearly have a prominent role in preventing suicide in mental health patients, emergency departments may represent an important additional setting for suicide prevention," the authors write.

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