Year: 2008 Source: Crisis, v.29, no.2, (2008), p.96-101 SIEC No: 20090248

Suicide victims frequently have contact with health care professionals in the months before death. The primary aims of this pilot psychological autopsy study were to determine the feasibility of undertaking a full study and to describe the characteristics of the last health care professional contacts with suicide victims aged > 34 years. We interviewed the informants of 52 suicides. Interviews were obtained from 37 health care professionals who had contact with 28 of the suicides during the 3 months before death. The primary reasons for the last contact with the health care professional were mental health (62%), physical health (22%), and social (14%). 87% of health care professional contacts occurred within 1 month of death. Symptoms of depression were noted in 49% of health care professional contacts. Consensus psychological autopsy diagnoses of depression were made in 64% of suicide victims. Overall suicide risk was assessed by 38% of health care professionals during their last contact. This was more likely to occur when the deceased presented as depressed, was aged < 60 years or seen by a psychiatrist. None was assessed to be suicidal. The family informants regarded nine of the suicide victims to have been suicidal before death but informed a health care professional in only one third of the cases. Critical information that might have altered the management is not often accessed from family members