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Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2012 Feb 16;11:4. doi: 10.1186/1744-859X-11-4.

Sentinel events and predictors of suicide among inpatients at psychiatric hospitals.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Kaohsiung Armed Force General Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.



The objective of this study was to assess sentinel event analysis and relative factors in different mental healthcare settings. In addition, the occurrence of sentinel events in different hospital settings was compared and potential risk factors contributing to sentinel events identified.


A total of 75 consecutive adult subjects were enrolled from 2 psychiatric units, 1 within a general hospital and 1 at a psychiatric hospital in southern Taiwan. A retrospective chart review of the psychiatric inpatients was conducted for patients that met the criteria for a sentinel event between July 2004 and May 2011. A comparison of the hospital settings was made and differences between suicidal and non-suicidal sentinel events studied.


Psychiatric patients that received general hospital psychiatric services (1) appeared to experience a sentinel event soon after admission, (2) the time between the sentinel event occurrence and patient death was shorter, (3) there was a higher probability of potential medical illness than among inpatients treated at a specialized psychiatric hospital, (4) the sentinel event subjects that committed suicide were younger, had a shorter hospital stay, shorter time to occurrence of the sentinel event followed by an unexpected death than the non-suicidal group, and (5) a younger age, higher education level, previous suicide attempt and family psychiatric history were important predictors of suicide among psychiatric inpatients.


The results of this study suggest that psychiatric inpatients treated at a general hospital require careful examination for potential physical illness and greater efforts to prevent suicide. A younger age, higher education level, history of a previous suicide attempt and family psychiatric history are additional risk factors for suicide among these patients.

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