Attitudes of prehospital providers on transport decision-making in the management of patients with a suicide attempt refusing care: A survey based on the Mental Health Care Act of 2002

  • Katya Evans
  • Heike Geduld
  • Willem Stassen


Background: Given the frequency of suicidal patients making attempts prior to a completed suicide, emergency access to mental health care services could lead to significant reduction in morbidity and mortality for these patients.
Aim: To describe the attitudes of prehospital providers and describe  transport decisionmaking around the management of patients with a  suicide attempt.
Setting: Cape Town Metropole.
Methods: A cross-sectional, vignette-based survey was used to collect data related to training and knowledge of the Mental Health Care Act, prehospital transport decision-making and patient management.
Results: Patients with less dramatic suicidal history were more likely to be discharged on scene. Few respondents reported the use of formal suicide evaluation tools to aid their decision. Respondents displayed negative attitudes towards suicidal patients. Some respondents reported returning to find a suicidal patient dead, while others reported patient attempts at
suicide when in their care. Eighty per cent of respondents had no training in the management of suicidal patients, while only 7.0% had specific training in the Mental Health Care Act.
Conclusion: A critical lack in the knowledge, training and implementation of the Mental Health Care Act exists amongst prehospital providers within the Western Cape. A further concern is the negative feelings towards suicidal patients and the lack of commitment to transporting patients to definitive care. It is essential to urgently develop training programmes to ensure that prehospital providers are better equipped to deal with suicidal patients.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6786
print ISSN: 1608-9685