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Emergency staff reactions to suicidal and self-harming patients

Pompili, Maurizioa b; Girardi, Paoloa; Ruberto, Amedeoa; Kotzalidis, Giorgio D.a; Tatarelli, Robertoa

European Journal of Emergency Medicine: August 2005 - Volume 12 - Issue 4 - p 169-178

Staff in the emergency departments of hospitals are reported as being negative or ambivalent toward suicidal or self-harming individuals. According to the literature, these patients are subjected to stigmatization and lack of empathy. This phenomenon has been linked to a decreased quality of care offered to these individuals and to missing an important opportunity to prevent further suicidal behavior or repetition of deliberate self-harm. Also, protocols, proper guidelines and education for the emergency staff call for a revision and an implementation.

In this paper, evidence suggesting staff attitudes toward suicidal and self-harming patients is reviewed. An overview of related issues such as clinical judgment, the use of scales and nurses' role is also included in this report.

aDepartment of Psychiatry, Sant'Andrea Hospital, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, Rome, Italy

bMcLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr Maurizio Pompili, Ospedale Sant'Andrea, Dip. di Psichiatria, Via di Grottarossa, 1035-1039, 00189 Roma, Italy


© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.