Can postdischarge follow-up contacts prevent suicide and suicidal behavior? A review of the evidence

Crisis. 2013 Jan 1;34(1):32-41. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000158.


Background: The time period following discharge from inpatient psychiatry and emergency department (ED) treatment is one of heightened risk for repeat suicide attempts for patients. Evidence reported in the literature shows that follow-up contacts might reduce suicide risk, although there has not been a comprehensive and critical review of the evidence to date.

Aims: To evaluate evidence for the effectiveness of suicide prevention interventions that involve follow-up contacts with patients.

Methods: Published empirical studies of follow-up interventions with suicidal behaviors (suicide, attempts, and ideation) as outcomes were searched. Study populations were inpatient psychiatric or ED patients being discharged to home. Contact modalities included phone, postal letter, postcards, in-person, and technology-based methods (e-mail and texting).

Results: Eight original studies, two follow-up studies, and one secondary analysis study met inclusion criteria. Five studies showed a statistically significant reduction in suicidal behavior. Four studies showed mixed results with trends toward a preventative effect and two studies did not show a preventative effect.

Conclusions: Repeated follow-up contacts appear to reduce suicidal behavior. More research is needed, however, especially randomized controlled trials, to determine what specific factors might make follow-up contact modalities or methods more effective than others.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Correspondence as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Patient Discharge
  • Social Support*
  • Suicide Prevention*
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control