Suicidal behaviour and attempted suicide occurring during assessment by the outreach psychiatric emergency service
background The outreach emergency psychiatric service plays an important role in recognising, arranging interventions and preventing suicide and suicidal behaviour. However, little is known about the assessments that members of the emergency team make when faced with patients showing suicidal behaviour.
aim To describe the relationships that are revealed between patient characteristics, suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide during assessments made by the emergency psychiatric service in The Hague.
method The emergency service kept a detailed record of 14,705 consultations. We compared the characteristics of patients who had suicidal thoughts with those of patients who had no such thoughts and we also compared the characteristics of patients who had attempted to commit suicide with those of patients who had not. We drew these comparisons by using logistic regression models, adjusting for clustering.
results 32.2% of the patients showed signs of suicidal behaviour and 9.2 % appeared likely to attempt suicide. Suicidal behaviour occurred most often in patients with depression. Suicidal patients were more often admitted to hospital than were non-suicidal patients and they were more likely to have been referred by a general practitioner or a general hospital. Medication was the most frequent means employed in attempts to commit suicide.
conclusion In about one third of the consultations of the outreach emergency psychiatric service, the patient showed suicidal behaviour. The actions and the policy of the emergency psychiatric service with regard to suicidal behaviour were diverse and dependent on factors that could change over the course of time.