In France, the majority of known suicide attempts are handled by general emergency departments. Almost a quarter of these patients are re-hospitalized for the same reason less than four years after their first admission. Given that a history of previous attempts is one of the most predictive elements of a future suicide, this article attempts to understand why general emergency departments cannot better contain this risk. Based on the ethnographic observation of three services, this study highlights a series of factors both internal and external to emergency departments. In particular, it shows how services’ priorities for intervention, the conditions of exchanges with patients, and emergency departments’ categorization of the suicidal crisis contribute to a treatment that greatly differs from medical recommendations.
- emergency departments
- suicide attempt