Suicide in recently admitted psychiatric in-patients: a case-control study

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BACKGROUND: Around a quarter of in-patient suicides occur within the first week of admission to psychiatric in-patient care. Little is known on the factors associated with suicide during this critical time. We aimed to identify risk factors for suicide among in-patients within the first week of admission.

METHODS: A national population-based case-control study of 107 current psychiatric in-patients in England who died by suicide within a week of admission, matched on admission date with 107 living controls.

RESULTS: Forty-two (40%) suicide cases died within the first 3 day of admission. A fifth of all suicides were on authorised leave at the time of death, but 34% were off the ward without staff agreement compared to only 1% of controls. Independent risk factors for suicide included previous self-harm, recent adverse life events, and a short (<12 months) duration of illness.

LIMITATIONS: This is a retrospective study, using clinical data mainly collected from case records. Clinicians were not blind to case/control status.

CONCLUSIONS: The first few days of admission should be recognised as the period of highest risk. Careful risk evaluation is needed at this time, particularly in those with recent illness onset or previous suicide attempts. Knowledge of life events experienced before admission should be incorporated into risk assessments. Improvements to the ward environment to lessen the distress of an admission may be an important preventative measure. Protocols may require adapting to improve the safety of those on agreed leave, and prevent absconding through increased vigilance and closer observation of ward exits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-128
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2013


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients/psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders/therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission/statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide/statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


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