Interventions to prevent repeat suicidal behavior in patients admitted to an emergency department for a suicide attempt: a meta-analysis

J Affect Disord. 2015 Apr 1:175:66-78. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.12.048. Epub 2014 Dec 30.


Background: A huge number of patients with self-harm and suicide attempt visit emergency departments (EDs). We systematically reviewed studies and examined the effect of interventions to prevent repeat suicidal behavior in patients admitted to EDs for a suicidal attempt.

Method: We searched the databases of MEDLINE, PsychoINFO, CINAHL, and EMBASE through August 2013. Eligible studies were randomized controlled trials assessing the effects on repeat suicidal behavior of interventions initiated in suicidal patients admitted to EDs. Interventions in each trial were classified into groups by consensus. Meta-analyses were performed to determine pooled relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of repetition of suicide attempt for interventions in each group.

Results: Out of 5390 retrieved articles, 24 trials were included and classified into four groups (11 trials in the Active contact and follow-up, nine in the Psychotherapy, one in the Pharmacotherapy, and three in the Miscellaneous). Active contact and follow-up type interventions were effective in preventing a repeat suicide within 12 months (n=5319; pooled RR=0.83; 95% CI: 0.71 to 0.97). However, the effect at 24 months was not confirmed (n=925; pooled RR=0.98; 95% CI: 0.76-1.22). The effects of the other interventions on preventing a repetition of suicidal behavior remain unclear.

Limitation: Caution is needed regarding the heterogeneity of the effects.

Conclusion: Interventions of active contact and follow-up are recommended to reduce the risk of a repeat suicide attempt at 12 months in patients admitted to EDs with a suicide attempt. However, the long-term effect was not confirmed.

Keywords: Emergency department; Meta-analysis; Self-harm; Suicide; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Humans
  • Protective Factors
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide Prevention*
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • Treatment Outcome