Year: 2019 Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine. (2019). 56(2), 205-214. SIEC No: 20190097

Identifying medical encounters that precede self-directed violence may allow for important prevention opportunities. This study examined the risk of self-directed violence after visiting the emergency department for a range of physical health conditions among youth.
This retrospective cohort study used 2012–2013 statewide emergency department data from six states. Among patients aged 15–29 years, the exposure group included 2,192,322 emergency department visits for 16 selected conditions, coded by whether visits for those conditions were the first, second, or third or later visit for that condition. Emergency department visits for a minor infection served as the reference group (n=149,163). A Cox proportional hazard model was used to assess the risk of a self-directed violence event within 6 months for each condition. Analyses were conducted in 2017.
Overall, 8,489 (0.4%) of all patients visited the emergency department for self-directed violence over a 6-month period. Initial visits for epilepsy or seizures conveyed a markedly elevated hazard ratio for subsequent self-directed violence at 6.0 and 5.7, respectively (p<0.001). Initial visits for other conditions showed moderately elevated risk with hazard ratios primarily <2. Second visits for various pain symptoms, syncope, vomiting, or non–self-directed violence injury also had a 3- to 5-fold increase in hazard ratios for subsequent self-directed violence. Hazard ratios for third or later visit increased to 8.8 for back pain, 6.9 for headache, about 5 for abdominal pain, dental complaints, and non–self-directed violence injury (p<0.001).
Young people presenting to the emergency department for certain medical conditions are at an increased risk of subsequent self-directed violence. An awareness of these patterns may help guide screening efforts for suicide prevention in clinical settings.