Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale


Suicides in psychiatric in-patients: what are we doing wrong?

Diego De Leo c1 and Jerneja Sveticic


Given the uncontested role of psychiatric illnesses in both fatal and non-fatal suicidal behaviours, efforts are continuously made in improving mental health care provision. In cases of severe mental disorder, when intensified treatment protocols and continuous supervision are required due to individual's impaired emotional, cognitive and social functioning (including danger to self and others), psychiatric hospitalisation is warranted. However, to date there is no convincing evidence that in-patient care prevents suicide. In fact, quite paradoxically, both admissions to a psychiatric ward and recent discharge from it have been found to increase risk for suicidal behaviours. What elements in the chain of well-intentioned approaches to treating psychiatric illness and suicidality fail to protect this vulnerable population is still unclear. The same holds true for the identifications of factors that may increase the risk for suicide. This editorial discusses current knowledge on this subject, proposing strategies that might improve prevention.


c1 Professor D. de Leo, Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Suicide Prevention, and National Centre of Excellence in Suicide Prevention, Mt Gravatt campus, Griffith University, Griffith, QLD 4122 (Australia). Fax: +61-7-3735.3450