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Mental health follow-up after deliberate self-harm and risk for repeat self-harm and death

Hunter J, Maunder R, Kurdyak P, Wilton AS, Gruneir A, Vigod S. Psychiatry Res. 2018; 259:333-9. Epub 2017 Sep 12.


Morbidity and mortality after deliberate self-harm (DSH) are high, so mental health care shortly after DSH is recommended. Using population-level health data we determined the association between a mental health visit and risk for repeat DSH with or without intensive care unit (ICU) admission or all-cause death. Over two years, 23,140 individuals had emergency department treatment for DSH. Within 30 days, 10.7% had a family physician mental health visit, 17.1% visited a psychiatrist, 3.6% visited both and 68.6% neither. Individuals who received mental health follow-up had more chronic and severe mental illness and higher acuity DSH. Over five years, repeat DSH occurred in 4,792 (20.7%). Repeat DSH was more common in those who had a mental health visit within 30 days. Adjusting for baseline characteristics attenuated these differences. Similar results were found for DSH with ICU admission (5.0%) and death (7.6%). More frequent follow-up was not associated with better outcome. Timely access to mental health care after DSH was poor at 31%. Follow-up care had virtually no association with subsequent risk, so treatment as usual is insufficient. Post-DSH care augmented with evidence-based interventions is required.

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