Objective: This study investigated the characteristics of suicide attempters referred to psychiatric hospitals and the factors affecting such referral.
Method: All 1198 consecutive suicide attempters treated in general hospital emergency rooms in Helsinki during a 12-month period were identified. Data on all health care contacts 1 year before the index attempt and on referrals to psychiatric hospitals after the attempt were gathered.
Results: We found that a quarter of patients were referred to psychiatric hospitals as inpatients after index suicide attempts. Factors predicting referral to psychiatric hospitals, compared to nonreferral, were older age, psychotic disorder, mood disorder, lack of alcohol consumption preceding the attempt, somatic illness, suicide attempt on a weekday, previous psychiatric treatment, psychiatric consultation and the hospital treating the suicide attempt.
Conclusion: Although the clinical characteristics of patients attempting suicide are a major determinant of whether they are subsequently referred to psychiatric hospitals, the treatment practices of emergency room hospitals also influence treatment decisions.