Telephone Follow-up and Suicide Attempts

July 15, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A previous study in Spain found that a series of telephone calls to people who had been discharged from an emergency department after a suicide attempt reduced the rate of subsequent attempts as well as delayed the timing of subsequent attempts during the 12-month period in which the calls were made. However, authors of a follow-up study found that five years after discharge, there were no significant differences in the rate of additional suicide attempts among patients who had been called and patients who had not been called.

The original intervention included an initial crisis-intervention session in the emergency department, an appointment with a psychiatrist within 10 days of discharge, and follow-up telephone calls by a nurse specializing in mental health care at 1 week and 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after discharge. The nurses encouraged the patients to follow the treatment plan made by the psychiatrist and to make emergency appointments if the nurse felt there was a heightened risk of suicide. Patients in the control group “were discharged to the care of their families and general practitioners.” Control-group patients who were considered to be at high risk for psychopathology were referred to a community psychiatry service.

The follow-up study found that 31.4 percent of patients who had received the calls during the 12-month intervention period attempted suicide during the five-year follow-up period, as did 34.4 percent of the control group who had not been called. This difference was not statistically significant.

Cebrià, A. I., Pérez-Bonaventura, I., Cuijpers, P., Kerkhof, A., Parra, I., Escayola, A., … Palao, D. J. (2015). Telephone management program for patients discharged from an emergency department after a suicide attempt. Crisis36(5), 345–352.