BACKGROUND Information on risk factors associated with high rates of suicide is necessary, if suicide rates among the mentally ill are to be reduced.
METHOD We used ICD-9 E-codes to define deaths on which suicide or open (undetermined death) verdicts were returned, among residents of a catchment area defined by OPCS area codes. Relative risks of suicide and undetermined deaths for recent patients (those in contact with a psychiatric service in the year preceding death) were calculated.
RESULTS Of the 286 persons, 108 were recent patients. Eighty-four per cent suffered from schizophrenia or depression. Risks of suicide and undetermined death for these patients were 31 and 20 times, respectively, those of other residents. Social risk factors varied with diagnosis.
CONCLUSION Over 90% of recent patients were receiving medical care at time of death; not all were treated appropriately. Recognising medical and social risk factors in recent patients, and effective monitoring of treatment, is important.