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Psychiatric units safer as in-patient suicide falls

17 May 2012

Suicides by psychiatric in-patients have fallen to a new low, research published today (Thursday) has found.

The study by the University of Manchester’s National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, one of very few to look at trends over time, shows the rate of suicide among psychiatric in-patients fell by between 29% and 31% between 1997 and 2008, with nearly 100 fewer deaths per year.

The falls were seen across most groups of patients with the biggest falls in young patients and those with schizophrenia. On wards, deaths by hanging fell by nearly 60%.

But the research, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, also revealed that the risk of suicide for those recently discharged from hospital may have increased over the same time period. The number of suicide deaths in people under the care of specialist services such as crisis resolution teams also increased. However, the research team suggested that these increases in suicide did not explain the fall in in-patient suicide.

Lead author Nav Kapur, Professor of Psychiatry and Population Health at The University of Manchester, said: “The fall in suicide rates among psychiatric in-patients since the late 90s has been a major success for suicide prevention in hospital services. Suicide rates have fallen faster than in the general population and against a backdrop where in-patients have had more complex needs. Increased awareness of risk, a safer ward environment and improved professional practice could be key factors in these positive trends.

“But, as in-patient services are now dealing with patients who may be more unwell than in the past, swift and effective support for people following discharge has become even more important. We also need to keep a careful watch on suicide in services and settings which are alternatives to in-patient admission.”

Ends

Notes for editors

A copy of the paper, ‘Psychiatric in-patient care and suicide in England, 1997 to 2008: a longitudinal study,’ by N. Kapur, I. M. Hunt, K. Windfuhr, C. Rodway, R. Webb, M. S. Rahman, J. Shaw and L. Appleby, and published in Psychological Medicine, is available on request.

Background information:

This research builds on a recent study which showed the positive impact of mental health policies on suicide rates in NHS Mental Health Trusts.

http://www.medicine.manchester.ac.uk/mentalhealth/research/suicide/prevention/nci/projects/index.aspx?ID=1672&Control=TagList2

About the National Confidential Inquiry:

The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness aims to improve mental health services and reduce the risk of suicide.

It has been examining incidences of suicide and homicide by people in contact with mental health services in the UK since 1997. The Inquiry also examines cases of sudden death in the psychiatric in-patient population.

It is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) on behalf of the funding bodies of the Department of Health, NHSSPS Northern Ireland, NHS Scotland and NHS Wales to undertake the Mental Health Clinical Outcome Review Programme. The National Confidential Inquiry is based within the Centre for Suicide Prevention in the Centre for Mental Health and Risk at the University of Manchester. 

For more details about the Inquiry visit:

http://www.medicine.manchester.ac.uk/mentalhealth/research/suicide/prevention/nci/

For further information contact:

Aeron Haworth
Media Relations
Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences
The University of Manchester

Tel: 0161 275 8383
Mob: 07717 881563
Email: aeron.haworth@manchester.ac.uk