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Trends in emergency department visits by women who have attempted suicide.

More than 215,000 emergency department visits involving intentional self-harm were made by females in 2009, and females were involved in three out of five emergency room visits for drug-related suicide attempts. Because suicide attempts are a risk factor for subsequent suicide attempts, the emergency department may represent a key opportunity for mental health intervention.

Suicide ranks seventh in the top 10 leading causes of death for females aged 12 to 65, making suicide prevention among women a public health priority. Although men have higher suicide death rates, women are treated for attempted suicide more often than men.

The number of emergency department (ED) visits for drug-related suicide attempts among females was stable each year from 2005 (92,682 visits) to 2009 (120,418 visits) (see the table below). By age group, only females aged 50 or older had a statistically significant increase in the number of visits. Among that age group, the number of visits increased 49 percent (from 11,235 visits in 2005 to 16,754 visits in 2009). This increase reflects the overall population growth of women aged 50 or older, rather than an increase in the rate of ED visits for drug-related suicide attempts (23.8 ED visits per 100,000 population in 2005 and 32.3 visits per 100,000 population in 2009).

Prevention and intervention efforts can reduce the underlying suicidal risk factors in women. Primary care and other health providers who prescribe drugs can monitor the frequency of requested refills, assess medical need, and refer women to mental health services when indicated. Likewise, increased awareness of these trends among ED personnel can help ensure that patients are referred to appropriate mental health and social services, which may reduce the repetition of suicide attempts and address underlying health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, and domestic violence.

The mental and physical health needs of women vary across the life span, and older women represent one of the nation's fastest growing populations. Problems such as pain and sleep disorders can lead to increased use of prescription drugs. Also, older women may experience depression because of health changes or other negative life events. Expanded research on women's aging issues and the potential use of these drugs as a method of, or influence on, suicide attempts is critical.

Source: SAMHSA. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report, posted May 12, 2011. To see the report in HTML, click here: <>. To view the same report in PDF form, click here: <>.

Emergency Department (ED) Visits for Drug-Related
Suicide Attempts Among Females, by Age Group:
2005 and 2009

Age Group               2005            2009

Total                   92,682          120,418
Aged 12 to 20           23,313          26,801
Aged 21 to 34           28,796          39,802
Aged 35 to 49           29,300          37,034
Aged 50 or Older *      11,235          16,754

* The change from 2005 to 2009 in women aged 50
or older was statistically significant at the .05 level.

Source: 2005 to 2009 estimates from the 2009 SAMHSA
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Title Annotation:Noteworthy
Publication:The Advocate (American Mental Health Counselors Association)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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