Time patterns of attempted suicide

Hanna Valtonen, Kirsi Suominen, Timo Partonen, Aini Ostamo, Jouko Lönnqvist
Journal of Affective Disorders 2006, 90 (2): 201-7

BACKGROUND: The association of mental disorders with time patterns of attempted suicide is poorly understood.

METHODS: The study material consisted of all consecutive suicide attempts admitted to health care in Helsinki during a one-year period from 15 January 1997 to 14 January 1998. Clinical diagnosis was made according to ICD-10.

RESULTS: Overall, the rate of suicide attempts varied markedly during the study period, peaking in autumn and being lowest during winter. Substance use disorders best explained suicide attempts occurring at weekends. There was considerable temporal variation among patients with mood disorders, compared to only slight variation among patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Study subjects tended to contact health services in the late evening and around midnight. Those contacting health services outside normal hours received psychiatric consultation less frequently than others and were referred to aftercare less often.

LIMITATIONS: Structured Clinical Interviews for DSM-IV Axis I and II Disorders were not used.

CONCLUSIONS: There were marked time patterns of attempted suicide, especially among patients with mood disorders and substance use disorders. This contrasted with the limited fluctuation among patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Contacts with the health care system occurred most often in the late evening and around midnight. The findings question the adequacy of staff numbers for psychiatric consultations and of time to plan aftercare.

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