Background. The pattern of all health care contacts among young people before and after attempted suicide is not well documented. Neither is it known if the health care contacts of young suicide attempters differ from those of older suicide attempters. This study investigated the age-related clinical characteristics of suicide attempters and the pattern of their contacts with health care before and after attempted suicide in different age groups, particularly adolescence and young adulthood.
Method. All consecutive 1198 suicide attempters treated in hospital emergency rooms in Helsinki between January 1997 and January 1998 were identified and divided into three age groups (15–24 years, 25–39 years, 40 years and over). Data were gathered on all health care contacts 1 year before and after the index attempt.
Results. Although adolescent and young adult suicide attempters suffered from severe mental disorders, a remarkable proportion of them were left without psychiatric consultation and aftercare recommendation following the attempt. Two-thirds of 15–19-year-old male suicide attempters had no treatment contact during the month before the attempt, while a quarter of them were referred to psychiatric consultation and a half had no healthcare contact in the month following the attempt.
Conclusions. These findings indicate considerable scope for improvement in the assessment of young suicide attempters and their referral to aftercare.