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J Psychiatr Pract. 2006 Nov;12(6):341-7.

Consumer and family experiences in the emergency department following a suicide attempt.

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University of Kentucky, College of Social Work, Lexington, KY 40506, USA.



To understand the separate experiences of consumers (patients) and family members in the Emergency Department (ED) following a suicide attempt.


Separate anonymous surveys were created for two groups: 1) consumers (n = 465) who had made a suicide attempt and been to the ED, and 2) others (referred to here as family members; n = 254) who had a close friend or relative treated in an ED due to suicidal behavior. Surveys were available on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website ( for 2 months.


Almost half of consumers were accompanied by a family member to the ED following their suicide attempt. Over half of consumers and family members felt that staff treated them with respect and addressed ethnic and cultural issues appropriately. However, fewer than 40% of consumers felt that staff listened to them, described the nature of treatments to them, or took their injury seriously. Family members were more likely than consumers to feel heard or to receive information about treatment. More than half of consumers and almost a third of family members felt directly punished or stigmatized by staff. Consumers and family members also reported negative experiences involving a perception of unprofessional staff behavior, feeling the suicide attempt was not taken seriously, and long wait times.


Individuals who visited the NAMI website reported a range of negative experiences in EDs following visits for suicide attempts. The effects of these experiences on retention in care and subsequent self-injurious behavior are largely unexplored. A greater understanding of these effects may inform development of interventions to increase the satisfaction of consumers and their families and friends and improve outcomes that result from emergency care of suicidal patients and their families.

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