Changes in institutional psychiatric care and suicidal behaviour: a follow-up study of inpatient suicide attempters in Baerum, Norway

Håkon A Johannessen, Gudrun Dieserud, Fredrik Jakhelln, Per-Henrik Zahl, Diego De Leo
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2009, 44 (10): 845-51

BACKGROUND: During the past decades, extensive reformatory changes in institutional psychiatric care have been implemented in Norway.

AIMS: The objective of the present study was to investigate whether these changes have resulted in shortened length of psychiatric hospital stays for suicide attempters. Further, to examine if length of hospital stay and time period in which the patients received treatment were related to the risk of a repeated suicide attempt and/or committing suicide.

METHODS: All cases of suicide attempters hospitalised between 1984 and 2006 in the municipality of Baerum, a suburb outside Oslo, were examined. The period of observation was further subdivided in two time intervals on the basis of the de-institutionalisation of psychiatric care, which started to plateau in 1996.

RESULTS: Among 1,574 patients consecutively admitted to the local general hospital after a suicide attempt, 330 were admitted to inpatient psychiatric care. Patients admitted in the period 1996-2006 had significantly shorter hospital stays than patients in the preceding period 1984-1995 (Log Rank P < 0.001). Neither the time period of treatment variable nor the length of hospital stay variable was significantly associated with the risk of a repeated suicide attempt or suicide.

CONCLUSIONS: Psychiatric de-institutionalisation appears as not having affected suicide attempt repetition. It is possible that reduced length of hospital stay has been compensated by improved mental health care in general and extended outpatient services in particular.

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