Suicides in ethnic minorities within 12 months of contact with mental health services

ISABELLE M. HUNT , JO ROBINSON , HARRIET BICKLEY , JANET MEEHAN , REBECCA PARSONS , KERRY McCANN , SANDRA FLYNN , JAMES BURNS , JENNY SHAW , NAVNEET KAPUR , LOUIS APPLEBY

Abstract

Background Information on suicide by psychiatric patients from ethnic minority groups is scarce.

Aims To establish the number of patients from ethnic minorities who kill themselves; to describe their suicide methods, and their social and clinical characteristics.

Method A national clinical survey was based on a 4-year sample of suicides in England and Wales. Detailed data were collected on those who had been in contact with mental health services in the year before death.

Results In total 282 patients from ethnic minorities died by suicide – 6% of all patient suicides. The most common method of suicide was hanging; violent methods were more common than in White patient suicides. Schizophrenia was the most common diagnosis. Ethnic minority patients were more likely to have been unemployed than White patients and to have had a history of violence and recent non-compliance. In around half, this was the first episode of self-harm. Black Caribbean patients had the highest rates of schizophrenia (74%), unemployment, living alone, previous violence and drug misuse.

Conclusions In order to reduce the number of suicides by ethnic minority patients, services should address the complex health and social needs of people with severe mental illness.

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