Treatment priority for suicide ideation and behaviours at an Australian emergency department

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Milner, Allison
Kõlves, Kairi
Kõlves, Keili
Gladman, Beverley
De Leo, Diego
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Anantha Shekhar


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AIM: To investigate the treatment priority given to self-harmers presenting to a hospital emergency department (ED) in Queensland, Australia, over the period 2005-2010. METHODS: The main outcome measure of this study was the treatment priority given to persons presenting with suicide ideation and communication (SIC) or self-harming behaviour. Treatment priority was measured using the Australasian Triage Scale, which ranks patients from 1 (in need of immediate treatment) to 5 (assessment and treatment to start within 120 min). Ordered logistic regression was used to assess the broad demographic and treatment-related factors associated with more urgent triage categories and to investigate which methods of non-fatal suicidal behaviour (NFSB) were prioritised as most urgent. RESULTS: Most cases of NFSB were between 15 and 34 years. A larger proportion of persons presenting for SIC were aged 35 to 44 years. Over 50% of male presentations and 38% of female presentations were for SIC. Those cases prioritised as being more urgent had significantly greater odds of being older, presented after an act of self-harm rather than SIC, and had used multiple methods of NFSB. These individuals also had greater odds of being male and having made past presentations for SIC or NFSB. Among males, those presenting after ingestion of drugs had the greatest odds of receiving immediate attention compared to SIC. "Cutters" were considered as the least "urgent" subjects, and had a greatest risk of waiting 60 to 120 min for treatment compared to suicide ideators. Among females, those presenting with chemicals, poisons and gases had the greatest odds of receiving immediate attention compared to SIC. Females who presenting after cutting themselves had lower odds of receiving immediate treatment than those who presented with SIC. CONCLUSION: ED staff seems to judge the urgency of cases based on demographic factors such as age and gender, as well as method of NFSB.

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World Journal of Psychiatry

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© 2013 Baishideng Publishing Group Co., Limited. All rights reserved. Articles published by this Open-Access journal are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license.

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