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Suicide Risk Increases within the First Two Weeks of Leaving a Hospital

Update Date: Jul 17, 2014 02:20 PM EDT

Patients dealing with mental illnesses are extremely vulnerable within the first two weeks after being discharged from a hospital, a new study reported. According to a new report conducted in the United Kingdom, suicide risk increases significantly during this time.

The report, which was commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) on behalf of NHS (National Health Service) England, the Health Department of the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, DHSSPS Northern Ireland and Jersey, found that from 2002 to 2012, an estimated 3,225 patients committed suicide within the first three months after leaving the hospital. This number represents 18 percent of all patient suicides within this time frame.

"Our latest data shows the first three months after discharge remain the time of highest risk but especially in the first 1-2 weeks. This increased risk has been linked to short admissions and to life events so our recommendations are that careful and effective care planning is needed including for patients before they are discharged and for those who self-discharge," study's lead investigator, professor Louis Appleby, Director of the National Confidential Inquiry, said in the press release. "Early follow-up appointments should be strengthened and reducing the length of in-patient stay to ease pressure on beds should not be an aim in itself. Instead health professionals should ensure the adverse events that preceded the admission have been addressed."

The Inquiry data found that within the first week after being discharged, there were 526 suicides. The first week was considered the peak time in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. In Wales, suicide risk peaked during the first two weeks. The researchers concluded that doctors must follow up on their mental health patients.

The researchers found that hanging was the most common method of suicide. In 2012 alone, there were 2,994 suicides caused by hanging with 813 of them being in mental health patients.

"Mental health services need to recognize their role in preventing domestic violence, working with other agencies. We need to improve the mental health of perpetrators to protect victims," professor Jenny Shaw, Head of Homicide Research on the Inquiry, said.

The study's findings were presented at a launch event taking place in Manchester.

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