Suicide in the medical setting

Elizabeth D. Ballard, Maryland Pao, David Henderson, Laura M. Lee, J. Michael Bostwick, Donald L. Rosenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: Little is known about suicide in the hospital setting. Although suicide is a major public health concern, the literature on suicide in the medical setting is limited, and accurate data on hospital-based suicides are unavailable. Consequently, the prevalence, demographic characteristics, and risk factors for suicide in this population are unknown. The literature on completed suicides in medical or surgical wards of a general hospital was summarized to generate hypotheses for further investigation regarding inhospital suicides. Methods: MEDLINE, PsycINFO, IndexCat, and Scopus were queried for English-language articles on inpatient suicides in a general hospital. These data were compared with reports of suicide by psychiatric inpatients and the annual suicide statistics from the U.S. general population. Results: Twelve articles detailing 335 suicides in the medical setting were included. Published data on hospital-based suicides are limited by selection bias, incomplete reporting, and a small number of completed suicides. Consequently, no significant setting-specific findings emerge from the existing literature. Reported cases suggest that inpatients who commit suicide in the medical setting may have a different demographic profile and employ different methods of suicide in comparison with individuals who commit suicide in psychiatric settings or the general population. Discussion: Given the absence of systematic data collection and the highly variable nature of reported suicides, it could not be determined if clinically relevant distinctions exist between suicides in different health care settings. Prospective and more detailed data collection are needed because a more complete characterization of suicide in medical inpatients may be useful in both prevention approaches and institutional policies with respect to hospital-based suicides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)474-481
Number of pages8
JournalJoint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management


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