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Complex challenges may arise when patients present to emergency services with an advance decision to refuse life-saving treatment following suicidal behaviour.
To investigate the use of advance decisions to refuse treatment in the context of suicidal behaviour from the perspective of clinicians and people with lived experience of self-harm and/or psychiatric services.
Forty-one participants aged 18 or over from hospital services (emergency departments, liaison psychiatry and ambulance services) and groups of individuals with experience of psychiatric services and/or self-harm were recruited to six focus groups in a multisite study in England. Data were collected in 2016 using a structured topic guide and included a fictional vignette. They were analysed using thematic framework analysis.
Advance decisions to refuse treatment for suicidal behaviour were contentious across groups. Three main themes emerged from the data: (a) they may enhance patient autonomy and aid clarity in acute emergencies, but also create legal and ethical uncertainty over treatment following self-harm; (b) they are anxiety provoking for clinicians; and (c) in practice, there are challenges in validation (for example, validating the patient’s mental capacity at the time of writing), time constraints and significant legal/ethical complexities.
The potential for patients to refuse life-saving treatment following suicidal behaviour in a legal document was challenging and anxiety provoking for participants. Clinicians should act with caution given the potential for recovery and fluctuations in suicidal ideation. Currently, advance decisions to refuse treatment have questionable use in the context of suicidal behaviour given the challenges in validation. Discussion and further patient research are needed in this area.
Declaration of interest
D.G., K.H. and N.K. are members of the Department of Health's (England) National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group. N.K. chaired the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guideline development group for the longer-term management of self-harm and the NICE Topic Expert Group (which developed the quality standards for self-harm services). He is currently chair of the updated NICE guideline for Depression. K.H. and D.G. are NIHR Senior Investigators. K.H. is also supported by the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and N.K. by the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Previous research has documented marked occupational differences in suicide risk, but these estimates are 10 years old and based on potentially biased risk assessments.
To investigate occupation-specific suicide mortality in England, 2011–2015.
Estimation of indirectly standardised mortality rates for occupations/occupational groups based on national data.
Among males the highest risks were seen in low-skilled occupations, particularly construction workers (standardised mortality ratio [SMR] 369, 95% CI 333–409); low-skilled workers comprised 17% (1784/10 688) of all male suicides (SMR 144, 95% CI 137–151). High risks were also seen among skilled trade occupations (SMR 135 95% CI 130–139; 29% of male suicides). There was no evidence of increased risk among some occupations previously causing concern: male healthcare professionals and farmers. Among females the highest risks were seen in artists (SMR 399, 95% CI 244–616) and bar staff (SMR 182, 95% CI 123–260); nurses also had an increased risk (SMR 123, 95% CI 104–145). People in creative occupations and the entertainment industry – artists (both genders), musicians (males) and actors (males) – were at increased risk, although the absolute numbers of deaths in these occupations were low. In males (SMR 192, 95% CI 165–221) and females (SMR 170, 95% CI 149–194), care workers were at increased risk and had a considerable number of suicide deaths.
Specific contributors to suicide in high-risk occupations should be identified and measures – such as workplace-based interventions – put in place to mitigate this risk. The construction industry seems to be an important target for preventive interventions.
To examine score validity and reliability of a child version of the twenty-one-item Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (CTFEQ-R21) in a sample of Canadian children and adolescents and its relationship with BMI Z-score and food/taste preferences.
Children (n 158), sixty-three boys (mean age 11·5 (sd 1·6) years) and ninety-five girls (11·9 (sd 1·9) years).
Exploratory factor analysis revealed that the CTFEQ-R21 was best represented by four factors with item 17 removed (CFFEQ-R20), representing Cognitive Restraint (CR), Cognitive Uncontrolled Eating (UE 1), External Uncontrolled Eating (UE 2) and Emotional Eating (EE), accounting for 41·2 % of the total common variance with good scale reliability. ANOVA revealed that younger children reported higher UE 1 and CR scores than older children, and boys who reported high UE 1 scores had significantly higher BMI Z-scores. Children with high UE 1 scores reported a greater preference for high-protein and -fat foods, and high-fat savoury (HFSA) and high-fat sweet (HFSW) foods. Higher preference for high-protein, -fat and -carbohydrate foods, and HFSA, HFSW and low-fat savoury foods was found in children with high UE 2 scores.
The study suggests that the CFFEQ-R20 can be used to measure eating behaviour traits and associations with BMI Z-score and food/taste preferences in Canadian children and adolescents. Future research is needed to examine the validity of the questionnaire in larger samples and other geographical locations, as well as the inclusion of extraneous variables such as parental eating or socio-economic status.
The mental health of university students, especially medical students, is of growing concern in the UK.
To estimate the prevalence of mental disorder in health sciences students and investigate help-seeking behaviour.
An online survey from one English university (n = 1139; 53% response rate) collected data on depression (using the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire), anxiety (seven-item Generalised Anxiety Disorder Assessment), alcohol use (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test), self-harm and well-being, as well as help seeking.
A quarter of the students reported symptoms of moderate/severe depression and 27% reported symptoms of moderate/severe anxiety. Only 21% of students with symptoms of severe depression had sought professional help; the main reason for not seeking help was fear of documentation on academic records.
The study highlights the extent of mental health problems faced by health science students. Barriers to help seeking due to concerns about fitness-to-practise procedures urgently need to be addressed to ensure that this population of students can access help in a timely fashion.
This study examined the role of community resilience and psychological resilience on depressive symptoms in areas on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that have experienced multiple disasters.
Survey administration took place in the spring of 2015 to a spatially stratified, random sample of households. This analysis included a total of 294 subjects who lived in 1 of the 3 counties of the Mississippi Gulf Coast at the time of both Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The survey included the Communities Advancing Resilience Toolkit (CART) scale, the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC 10), and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D).
There was a significant inverse relationship between psychological resilience and depressive symptoms and a significant positive relationship between community resilience and psychological resilience. The results also revealed that community resilience was indirectly related to depressive symptoms through the mediating variable of psychological resilience.
These findings highlight the importance of psychological resilience in long-term disaster recovery and imply that long-term recovery efforts should address factors associated with both psychological and community resilience to improve mental health outcomes. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2018;12:241–248)
Scales are widely used in psychiatric assessments following self-harm. Robust evidence for their diagnostic use is lacking.
To evaluate the performance of risk scales (Manchester Self-Harm Rule, ReACT Self-Harm Rule, SAD PERSONS scale, Modified SAD PERSONS scale, Barratt Impulsiveness Scale); and patient and clinician estimates of risk in identifying patients who repeat self-harm within 6 months.
A multisite prospective cohort study was conducted of adults aged 18 years and over referred to liaison psychiatry services following self-harm. Scale a priori cut-offs were evaluated using diagnostic accuracy statistics. The area under the curve (AUC) was used to determine optimal cut-offs and compare global accuracy.
In total, 483 episodes of self-harm were included in the study. The episode-based 6-month repetition rate was 30% (n = 145). Sensitivity ranged from 1% (95% CI 0–5) for the SAD PERSONS scale, to 97% (95% CI 93–99) for the Manchester Self-Harm Rule. Positive predictive values ranged from 13% (95% CI 2–47) for the Modified SAD PERSONS Scale to 47% (95% CI 41–53) for the clinician assessment of risk. The AUC ranged from 0.55 (95% CI 0.50–0.61) for the SAD PERSONS scale to 0.74 (95% CI 0.69–0.79) for the clinician global scale. The remaining scales performed significantly worse than clinician and patient estimates of risk (P < 0.001).
Risk scales following self-harm have limited clinical utility and may waste valuable resources. Most scales performed no better than clinician or patient ratings of risk. Some performed considerably worse. Positive predictive values were modest. In line with national guidelines, risk scales should not be used to determine patient management or predict self-harm.
Previous analyses of adolescent suicides in England and Wales have focused on short time periods.
To investigate trends in suicide and accidental deaths in adolescents between 1972 and 2011.
Time trend analysis of rates of suicides and deaths from accidental poisoning and hanging in 10- to 19-year-olds by age, gender and deprivation. Rate ratios were estimated for 1982–1991, 1992–2001 and 2002–2011 with 1972–1981 as comparator.
Suicide rates have remained stable in 10- to 14-year-olds, with strong evidence for a reduction in accidental deaths. In males aged 15–19, suicide rates peaked in 2001 before declining. Suicide by hanging is the most common method of suicide. Rates were higher in males and in 15- to 19-year-olds living in more deprived areas.
Suicide rates in adolescents are at their lowest since the early 1970s with no clear evidence that changes in coroners' practices underlie this trend.
Self-harm (SH; intentional self-poisoning or self-injury) is common in children and adolescents, often repeated, and strongly associated with suicide. This is an update of a broader Cochrane review on psychosocial and pharmacological treatments for SH published in 1998 and updated in 1999. We have now divided the review into three separate reviews; this review is focused on psychosocial and pharmacological interventions for SH in children and adolescents.
Self-harm (intentional self-poisoning or self-injury) is common, often repeated, and strongly associated with suicide. This is an update of a broader Cochrane review on psychosocial and pharmacological treatments for self-harm, first published in 1998 and previously updated in 1999. We have now divided the review into three separate reviews. This review is focused on pharmacological interventions in adults who self-harm.
Repeat self-harm is an important risk factor for suicide. Few studies have explored risk factors for non-fatal repeat self-harm in Asia.
To investigate the risk of non-fatal repeat self-harm in a large cohort of patients presenting to hospital in Taipei City, Taiwan.
Prospective cohort study of 7601 patients with self-harm presenting to emergency departments (January 2004–December 2006). Survival analysis was used to examine the rates, timing and factors associated with repeat self-harm.
In total 778 (10.2%) patients presented to hospital with one or more further episodes of self-harm. The cumulative risk of non-fatal repetition within 1 year of a self-harm episode was 9.3% (95% CI 8.7–10.1). The median time to repetition within 1 year was 105 days. Females had a higher incidence of repeat self-harm than males (adjusted hazard ratio 1.25, 95% CI 1.05–1.48) but males had shorter median time to repetition (107 v. 80 days). Other independent risk factors for repeat self-harm within 1 year of an index episode were: young age, self-harm by medicine overdose and increasing number of repeat episodes of self-harm.
The risk of non-fatal repeat self-harm in Taipei City is lower than that seen in the West. Risk factors for repeat non-fatal self-harm differ from those for fatal self-harm. The first 3 months after self-harm is a crucial period for intervention.
Studies of therapeutic contact following self-harm have had mixed results. We carried out a pilot randomised controlled trial comparing an intervention (information leaflet listing sources of help, two telephone calls soon after presentation and a series of letters over 12 months) to usual treatment alone in 66 adults presenting with self-harm to two hospitals. We found that our methodology was feasible, recruitment was challenging and repeat self-harm was more common in those who received the intervention (12-month repetition rate 34.4% v. 12.5%).
Risk of self-harm and suicide is greatly increased in the period after
discharge from psychiatric in-patient care.
To investigate the impact on suicide of a series of policy initiatives to
enhance care in the immediate post-discharge period.
A time series analysis was based on 1997–2007 data from the National
Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and from Hospital Episode Statistics
There was no evidence of a reduced risk of suicide in the first 12 weeks
following discharge in 2003–2007 compared with 1997–2002. In contrast,
the relative risk of non-fatal self-harm in the 12 weeks after discharge
declined. The risk ratio for self-harm (2003–2007 v.
1997–2002) at 0–1 week post-discharge was 0.86 (95% CI 0.80–0.92) and at
2–4 weeks it was 0.89 (95% CI 0.85–0.94).
These findings provide some support for the impact of recent policy
changes on the risk of non-fatal self-harm in the immediate period after
discharge from psychiatric in-patient care.
Most previous studies of long-term mortality risk following self-harm
have been conducted in Western countries with few studies from Asia.
To investigate suicide and non-suicide mortality after non-fatal
self-harm in Taipei City, Taiwan.
Prospective cohort study (median follow-up 3.3 years) of 7601 individuals
presenting to hospital with self-harm (January 2004 to December 2006).
Standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) for suicide and non-suicide
mortality were calculated.
Suicide risk in the year following self-harm was over 100 times higher
than in the general population (SMR = 119.6, 95% CI 99.6–142.5). Males
and middle-aged and older adults had the highest subsequent risk of
suicide. Compared with people who took an overdose, individuals who used
hanging or charcoal burning in their index episode had the highest risk
of suicide. For non-suicide mortality the SMRs were 6.7 (95% CI 5.7–7.8)
in the first year and 4.4 (95% CI 3.9–4.9) during the whole follow-up
Patterns of increased all-cause and suicide mortality following an
episode of self-harm are similar in Taipei City to those seen in Western
countries. Designing better aftercare following non-fatal self-harm,
particularly for those with underlying physical disorders or who have
used lethal self-harm methods, should be a priority for suicide
prevention programmes in Asia.
After an epidemic rise in Australian young male suicide rates over the 1970s to 1990s, the period following the implementation of the original National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy (NYSPS) in 1995 saw substantial declines in suicide in young men.
To investigate whether areas with locally targeted suicide prevention activity implemented after 1995 experienced lower rates of young adult suicide, compared with areas without such activity.
Localities with or without identified suicide prevention activity were compared during the period of the NYSPS implementation (1995–1998) and a period subsequent to implementation (1999–2002) to establish whether annual average suicide rates were lower and declined more quickly in areas with suicide prevention activity over the period 1995–2002.
Male suicide rates were lower in areas with targeted suicide prevention activity (and higher levels of funding) compared with areas receiving no activity both during (RR = 0.89, 95% CI 0.80–0.99, P = 0.030) and after (RR = 0.86, 95% CI 0.77–0.96, P = 0.009) implementation, with rates declining faster in areas with targeted activity than in those without (13% v. 10% decline). However, these differences were reduced and were no longer statistically significant following adjustment for sociodemographic variables. There was no difference in female suicide rates between areas with or without targeted suicide prevention activity.
There was little discernible impact on suicide rates in areas receiving locally targeted suicide prevention activities in the period following the NYSPS.
It is hypothesised that the risk of schizophrenia may be elevated in children conceived following a short interpregnancy interval, when maternal folate stores are still being replenished. We examined the relationship between inter-pregnancy interval and schizophrenia risk in a longitudinal, population-based cohort. Risk of schizophrenia was increased by approximately 150% in those born following a pregnancy interval of $6 months, but was not increased if the interval after birth of the participant, before conception of the subsequent sibling, was $6 months. These findings support the hypothesis that folate (or other micronutrient) deficiency during fetal development may be an important risk factor for schizophrenia.
Hanging is the most frequently used method of suicide in the UK and has high case fatality (>70%).
To explore factors influencing the decision to use hanging.
Semi-structured qualitative interviews with 12 men and 10 women who had survived a near-fatal suicide attempt. Eight respondents had attempted hanging. Data were analysed thematically and with constant comparison.
Hanging was adopted or contemplated for two main reasons: the anticipated nature of a death from hanging; and accessibility. Those favouring hanging anticipated a certain, rapid and painless death with little awareness of dying and believed it was a ‘clean’ method that would not damage the body or leave harrowing images for others. Materials for hanging were easily accessed and respondents considered it ‘simple’ to perform without the need for planning or technical knowledge. Hanging was thus seen as the ‘quickest’ and ‘easiest’ method with few barriers to completion and sometimes adopted despite not being a first choice. Respondents who rejected hanging recognised it could be slow, painful and ‘messy’, and thought technical knowledge was needed for implementation.
Prevention strategies should focus on countering perceptions of hanging as a clean, painless and rapid method that is easily implemented. However, care is needed in the delivery of such messages as some individuals could gain information that might facilitate fatal implementation. Detailed research needs to focus on developing and evaluating interventions that can manage this tension.
Self-harm is a major public health problem and universal interventions such as contacting individuals by post or telephone following a self-harm episode have received much attention recently. They may also appeal to service providers because of their low cost. However, a widespread introduction of these interventions cannot be justified without a better understanding of whether they work, and if so how.