Examining the use of police and ambulance data in suicide research: A systematic scoping review of data linkage studies
Meurk, C., Wittenhagen, L., Steele, M.L., Ferris, L., Edwards, B., Bosley, E., & Heffernan, E.
Background: Police and paramedics are often the first to respond to individuals in suicide crisis and have an important role to play in facilitating optimal care pathways. Yet, little evidence exists to inform these responses. Data linkage provides one approach to examining this knowledge gap. Aim: We identified studies that examined suicide behaviors and linked to police or ambulance data. Method: A systematic search of PubMed and Scopus was undertaken to identify data linkage studies that: (1) examined suicide behaviors, and (2) included police or ambulance data. Studies were reviewed to identify: aims; suicide behaviors examined; how these were measured; how the cohort was defined; topic area; and what datasets were linked. Results: Eight studies met the inclusion criteria. Six studies included police data, and two studies included ambulance data. No study included both. Two topic areas were identified: (1) suicide-related contact with police or ambulance services; and (2) associations between suicidal behaviors and violence, victimization, and criminality. Limitations: Limitations to the review include the potential to have missed studies that investigated or reported on suicidality under the guise of mental health problems; complexities and nuances arising from the role of police data in coronial investigations; and limitations in the number of databases searched. Conclusion: Police and ambulance data represent a currently underutilized source of valuable information relevant to suicide crises, and further research should aim to address this gap.