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Emerg Med Pract. 2011 Sep;13(9):1-23; quiz 23-4.

The depressed patient and suicidal patient in the emergency department: evidence-based management and treatment strategies.

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Harvard Affiliated Emergency Residency Program, Boston, MA, USA.


There are approximately 12 million emergency department (ED) visits related to mental health/substance abuse annually. Approximately 650,000 patients are evaluated annually for suicide attempts. Evidence to guide the management and treatment of depression and suicidal ideation in the ED is limited. A large variation exists in the quality of care provided due to the lack of standardized guidelines aiding emergency clinicians. Depression ften manifests as unexplained somatic complaints, adding to the challenge of making this diagnosis in the ED. Recognition of depression by emergency clinicians has proved poor. Suicide is associated with multiple risk factors, of which a prior history of suicide attempts is the single strongest predictor. A systematic approach is required in the ED to identify patients with or at risk of having depression, and screening tools may offer utility to identify high-risk patients.

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