The Usefulness of Coroners' Data on Suicides for Providing Information Relevant to Prevention

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Abstract

Coroners' records are an accessible source of information on suicides. To assess their usefulness in relation to the investigation of specific methods of suicide, we examined coroners' records for 492 suicides across 24 jurisdictions in England. Generally data on demographic variables were well recorded. Information on contact with general practitioner and psychiatric services was less commonly available. Where those who had self-poisoned died in hospital, information on treatment and blood levels of drugs taken were not routinely available. For suicides by hanging, information on the source of ligature was frequently missing. Where firearms were used, information about licensing and storage were not routinely recorded. Generally there was wide variation across coroners in information relevant to specific methods. The use of standardized forms by coroners would assist studies of factors associated with suicide and potentially provide a representative source of information relevant to suicide prevention.

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