The British Journal of Psychiatry
Suicide and recency of health care contacts. A systematic review.
J Pirkis, P Burgess


BACKGROUND Many countries have set targets for suicide reduction, and suggested that mental health care providers and general practitioners have a key role to play.

METHOD A systematic review of the literature.

RESULTS Among those in the general population who commit suicide, up to 41% may have contact with psychiatric inpatient care in the year prior to death and up to 9% may commit suicide within one day of discharge. The corresponding figures are 11 and 4% for community-based psychiatric care and 83 and 20% for general practitioners.

CONCLUSIONS Among those who die by suicide, contact with health services is common before death. This is a necessary but not sufficient condition for clinicians to intervene. More work is needed to determine whether these people show characteristic patterns of care and/or particular risk factors which would enable a targeted approach to be developed to assist clinicians in detecting and managing high-risk patients.