Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Inpatient Suicide


Suicides that occur while a patient is hospitalized are tragic events causing immense distress to relatives, peers, and professional caregivers. The prevalence of this infrequent occurrence is between 0.1% and 0.4% of all psychiatric admissions. This article reviews the literature to see if such events can be predicted and prevented; attempts to identify high-risk patients through demographics, diagnoses, medication treatments, and patient social situations; and examines the care-delivery environment such as length of stay and physical surroundings. This article also examines the means patients used to end their lives and when in their hospital course they did so. The authors ask if standard predictors are applicable to hospitalized patients, speculate on potential preventive measures, examine the effect on care providers, and explore what might ease the aftermath. Affective disorders or schizophrenia are most frequently associated with inpatient suicide. Most occur while patients are off the psychiatric unit. Suicides on-ward are usually accomplished by hanging; off-ward suicides are also often violent. Most patients denied suicidal ideation prior to the act. Factors associated with suicide in the general population are not consistently associated with inpatient suicides. Patient monitoring is not always effective. The first week of hospitalization and the days immediately after discharge are when patients are most vulnerable to end their lives. The authors conclude that the potential for suicide may be present from the initiation of hospitalization, but the ability to determine individuals at risk is, at best, poor.

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