Community Mental Health Services May Lower Suicide Rates

Prominence of outpatient services in particular linked to decreased risk of suicide in Finland

MONDAY, Dec. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Multifaceted, community-based and specialized mental health services can greatly improve population mental health and lead to lower suicide rates, according to a nationwide analysis in Finland published online Dec. 22 in The Lancet.

Sami Pirkola, M.D., of Helsinki University Central Hospital in Finland, and colleagues conducted a nationwide comprehensive survey of Finnish adult mental health service units. The survey was conducted between 2004 and 2005, and included health or social care officers from 428 municipalities. Age- and sex-adjusted suicide risk between 2000 and 2004 was calculated for each municipality, and further adjusted for socioeconomic factors.

Several services were associated with a decreased suicide death rate, the researchers report. Outpatient services, the prominence of outpatient versus inpatient services, and the prevalence of 24-hour emergency services decreased the risk by 8 percent, 7 percent and 16 percent, respectively, the investigators found. However, after these were adjusted for socioeconomic factors, only the prominence of outpatient services continued to be associated with a lower suicide rate, the authors note.

The authors of an accompanying comment state that "while well thought out and carefully planned new developments that increase access to secondary care services for mental health patients are to be encouraged, measured progress towards flexible community care, not rapid ongoing change, should be the order of the day."

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