Assessing young people who deliberately harm themselves

  • Hurry J
  • Storey P
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Background Many young people who harm themselves have chronic mental health or social problems or are at risk of future self-harm or even suicide. The accident and emergency (A&E) clinic is an important gateway to treatment. Aims To describe the psychosocial assessment of 12- to 24-year-old patients attending A&E clinics following deliberate self-harm (DSH) and to identify features of service management and provision which maximise specialist assessment. Method A postal questionnaire was sent to a sample of one in three A&E departments in England. In a representative sample of 18 of these hospitals, staff were interviewed and 50 case notes per hospital were examined. Results Psychosocial assessment by non-specialist doctors in A&E departments tended to be of variable quality, focused on short-term risk. Around 43% of patients aged 12-24 were assessed by a specialist: specialist assessment was associated with high admission rates and the presence of on-site psychiatric departments and DSH teams. Conclusions Young DSH patients at risk often go unidentified; as a result their psychological problems may not be treated. Hospitals are frequently unaware of the proportion of patients discharged without adequate assessment. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

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  • Jane Hurry

  • Pamela Storey

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