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Suicide and recency of health care contacts

A systematic review

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 January 2018

Jane Pirkis
Centre for Health Program Evaluation, Department of General Practice and Public Health, The University of Melbourne
Philip Burgess
Mental Health Research Institute and Department of Psychological Medicine, Monash University, Australia



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


A systematic review of the literature.


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.


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.

Review Article
Copyright © 1998 The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

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