Suicide by homeless patients in England and Wales: national clinical survey

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Abstract

Background Homelessness in England and Wales is on the rise together with the mortality rate among homeless people. Many homeless people have a mental illness, which is a risk factor for suicide. Aims This study used data from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health to examine demographic and clinical characteristics of homeless people who died by suicide and were in recent contact with mental health services. Method We have compared 514 patients (2% of the total sample) who died by suicide and who were reported as being homeless or having no fixed abode by their clinicians with patients in stable accommodation between 2000 and 2016 to identify differences in sociodemographic characteristics and clinical care. Results Our analysis suggests that homeless patients who died by suicide had more acute (alcohol: 47% v. 25%, P < 0.01, drug: 39% v. 15%, P < 0.01) and chronic (alcohol: 72% v. 44%, P > 0.01, drug: 64% v. 31%) substance misuse issues than patients in stable accommodation. Homeless patients were also more likely to die as in-patients (21% v. 10%, P < 0.01) or within 3 months of discharge (32% v. 19%, P < 0.01). Conclusions Homeless patients who died by suicide more often had known risk factors for suicide than patients in stable accommodation. As a result of the higher percentages of post-discharge and in-patient suicides in homeless patients as well as the high prevalence of substance misuse, this study recommends closer integration of services as well as awareness of risks during in-patient admission and in the weeks immediately after discharge.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere65
Pages (from-to)e65
JournalBJPsych Open
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Suicide
  • discharge
  • homeless
  • in-patient treatment
  • substance misuse

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