short-term treatment on a psychiatric ward of
a university hospital
A. P. VISSER and A. J.F.M. KERKHOF
The number of suicides in the Netherlands has doubled since 1950. The number of suicide attempts also increased markedly, so that over the past fifteen years the number of hospital admissions after suicide attempts has nearly doubled. At a rough estimate, annually more than 25 000 suicide attempts are medically treated in Dutch hospitals ( Diekstraet al. 1982; Gezondheidsraad, 1986). From two studies among hospital staff it can be concluded that while there are set procedures to provide psychiatric care during hospital stay, the liason with mental health care often does not function very well ( Kerkhofet al. 1983; Kerkhofet al. 1988). These conclusions are supported by the results of a study carried out among Dutch suicide attempters about their experience with treatment in a general hospital and with subsequent mental health care ( Kerkhof, 1985). It is stressed that management policy does not meet sufficiently the needs of suicide attempters, who want their problems to be taken seriously and to be given emotional support, a need which the nursing staff does not always recognise. Suicide attempters also mentioned distrust and anticipation of blame and punishment. Consequently, any open communication with those who were treating them was impeded. There are also indications that those who have attempted suicide in the past receive less attention from medical staff. The research findings link up with conclusions noted elsewhere about professional care for suicide attempters ( Hawton and Catalan, 1982; Platt and Salter, 1987; Reimer, 1983).
It can be concluded that mental health care has not always been successful in preventing suicide attempters from repetition.