The names of 412 residents of the catchment population of a district general hospital unit who died potentially self-inflicted deaths in the eight years 1974-81 were identified. They were classified as suicide (245), accidental death (126), and undetermined (41). In each group, over half had a lifetime history of psychiatric treatment and over a third were psychiatric patients at the time of their death. The relative risk of a violent death for those who died within a year of their last psychiatric contact was 27 times greater than that of residents with no recent psychiatric contact. The relative risk was highest for those aged 35-44 and lowest for those of 75 years and over.