Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts as predictors of mental health service use

Med J Aust. 2001 Nov 19;175(10):542-5. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2001.tb143716.x.


Objective: To examine the extent to which suicidal ideation and suicide attempts are predictive of service use.

Design and setting: The National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing considered service utilisation in relation to self-reported mental health problems. Service utilisation was inquired of in relation to hospital-based care (including both specialist mental health and general care settings), as well as consultations with a range of health professionals (both specialist and non-specialist mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists and general practitioners) on an outpatient basis.

Participants: Secondary analysis of self-report data from 10,641 randomly selected Australian adults who participated in the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing in 1997. The key predictor variables were reported suicidal ideation and suicide attempts over the past 12 months.

Main outcome measures: Use of services for mental health problems (past 12 months).

Results: When considered in isolation, individuals reporting suicidal ideation were more likely to make use of at least one type of service for mental health problems than non-suicidal individuals (OR, 17.3; 95% CI, 13.2-22.6), and individuals reporting suicide attempts were even more likely to do so (OR, 32.3; 95% CI, 9.0-115.4). In the case of suicidal ideation, this effect remained significant after controlling for a range of potential confounders. For suicide attempts, the effect of mental health service use was no longer significant after other variables were taken into account.

Conclusions: Suicidal individuals are likely to make use of services, and a high proportion of suicides may be preventable through appropriate healthcare system responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*