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Original Investigation
July 2017

Suicide Rates After Discharge From Psychiatric FacilitiesA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Author Affiliations
  • 1MD candidate, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia
  • 2Discipline of Psychiatry, Centre for Values, Ethics, and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  • 3School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia
  • 4Head, Mental Health and Wellbeing, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Warwick, England
  • 5The Prince of Wales Hospitals, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia
JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(7):694-702. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.1044
Key Points

Questions  What is the suicide rate after discharge from psychiatric facilities, and what factors influence it?

Findings  In this meta-analysis of 100 studies of 183 patient samples, the postdischarge suicide rate was approximately 100 times the global suicide rate during the first 3 months after discharge and patients admitted with suicidal thoughts or behaviors had rates near 200 times the global rate. Even many years after discharge, previous psychiatric inpatients have suicide rates that are approximately 30 times higher than typical global rates.

Meaning  Although recently discharged patients and those who were admitted because of suicidal ideas and behaviors are at particular risk of suicide, all discharged patients have an enduring high suicide rate and should have ongoing access to health care resources.


Importance  High rates of suicide after psychiatric hospitalization are reported in many studies, yet the magnitude of the increases and the factors underlying them remain unclear.

Objectives  To quantify the rates of suicide after discharge from psychiatric facilities and examine what moderates those rates.

Data Sources  English-language, peer-reviewed publications published from January 1, 1946, to May 1, 2016, were located using MEDLINE, PsychINFO, and EMBASE with the search terms ((suicid*).ti AND (hospital or discharg* OR inpatient or in-patient OR admit*).ab and ((mortality OR outcome* OR death*) AND (psych* OR mental*)).ti AND (admit* OR admis* or hospital* OR inpatient* OR in-patient* OR discharg*).ab. Hand searching was also done.

Study Selection  Studies reporting the number of suicides among patients discharged from psychiatric facilities and the number of exposed person-years and studies from which these data could be calculated.

Data Extraction and Synthesis  The meta-analysis adhered to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) and Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) guidelines. A random-effects model was used to calculate a pooled estimate of postdischarge suicides per 100 000 person-years.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The suicide rate after discharge from psychiatric facilities was the main outcome, and the association between the duration of follow-up and the year of the sampling were the main a priori moderators.

Results  A total of 100 studies reported 183 patient samples (50 samples of females, 49 of males, and 84 of mixed sex; 129 of adults or unspecified patients, 20 of adolescents, 19 of older patients, and 15 from long-term or forensic discharge facilities), including a total of 17 857 suicides during 4 725 445 person-years. The pooled estimate postdischarge suicide rate was 484 suicides per 100 000 person-years (95% CI, 422-555 suicides per 100 000 person-years; prediction interval, 89-2641), with high between-sample heterogeneity (I2 = 98%). The suicide rate was highest within 3 months after discharge (1132; 95% CI, 874-1467) and among patients admitted with suicidal ideas or behaviors (2078; 95% CI, 1512-2856). Pooled suicide rates per 100 000 patients-years were 654 for studies with follow-up periods of 3 months to 1 year, 494 for studies with follow-up periods of 1 to 5 years, 366 for studies with follow-up periods of 5 to 10 years, and 277 for studies with follow-up periods longer than 10 years. Suicide rates were higher among samples collected in the periods 1995-2004 (656; 95% CI, 518-831) and 2005-2016 (672; 95% CI, 428-1055) than in earlier samples.

Conclusions and Relevance  The immediate postdischarge period is a time of marked risk, but rates of suicide remain high for many years after discharge. Patients admitted because of suicidal ideas or behaviors and those in the first months after discharge should be a particular focus of concern. Previously admitted patients should be able to access long-term care and assistance.