Aggressive behaviors in the psychiatric emergency service
Yves Chaput1, Lucie Beaulieu2, Michel Paradis3, Edith Labonté4
1Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal (presently in private practice); 2Department of Psychiatry, Haut Richelieu Hospital, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec; 3Department of Psychiatry, University of Montreal, Montreal; 4Department of Psychiatry, Laval University, Quebec, Canada
Introduction: Studies of aggressive behaviors in a nonforensic mental health setting have focused primarily on the inpatient ward and, on event prediction, using behavior-based clinical rating scales. Few studies have specifically targeted aggressive behaviors in the psychiatric emergency service or determined whether assessing the demographic and clinical characteristics of such patients might prove useful for their more rapid identification.
Methods: We used a prospectively acquired database of over 20,900 visits to four services in the province of Quebec, Canada, over a two-year period from September 2002 onwards. A maximum of 72 variables could be acquired per visit. Visits with aggression (any verbally or physically intimidating behavior), both present and past, were tagged. Binary logistic regressions and cross-tabulations were used to determine whether the profile of a variable differed in visits with aggression from those without aggression.
Results: About 7% of visits were marked by current aggression (verbal 49%, physical 12%, verbal and physical 39%). Including visits with a “past only” history of aggression increased this number to 20%. Variables associated with aggression were gender (male), marital status (single/separated), education (high school or less), employment (none), judicial history (any type), substance abuse (prior or active), medication compliance (poor), type of arrival to psychiatric emergency services (involuntary, police, judiciary, landlord), reason for referral (behavioral dyscontrol), diagnosis (less frequent in anxiety disorders), and outcome (more frequently placed under observation or admitted).
Conclusion: Our results suggest that many state-independent variables are associated with aggressive behaviors in the psychiatric emergency service. Although their sum may not add up to a specific patient profile, they can nevertheless be useful in service planning, being easily integrated alongside state-dependent rating scales in a triage and/or observation instrument for daily use in the psychiatric emergency service.
Keywords: psychiatric emergency service, aggressive behaviors, epidemiology
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