More attention needs to be paid to suicide prevention in general hospitals, suggest findings from a UK study.
Researchers, led by Nadine Dougall from the University of Stirling, studied all 16,411 deaths by suicide in Scotland in people aged 15 and over between 1981 and 2010.
They found people who died by suicide were three times more likely to have been last discharged from general hospitals (8,263 deaths) than from psychiatric hospitals (2,644 deaths).
Only 14% of those who were discharged from a general hospital had a psychiatric diagnosis recorded in their notes at their last visit. However, analysis of the records found a further 19% had a previous history of mental illness that had not been recorded.
The researchers believe there is potential for staff in general hospitals to identity an “at-risk” group of people.
Ms Dougall said: “Contact with healthcare services offers opportunities for health professionals to engage in suicide prevention. To do this, we need to be able to assess which people are most at risk.
“Targeted follow-up of people admitted to general hospital having self-harmed – in particular young men – and screening for psychological problems in those who have had a previous history of self-harming or of mental illness, could be beneficial.”
She added: “To do this, hospitals will need to make better use of historical and electronic health records. Hospitals would also need to ensure that all hospital staff are able to engage in basic mental health screening of ‘at risk’ patients.”
The published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
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