Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 146-153

First online:

Attenders of a university hospital psychiatric emergency service in Belgium

General characteristics and gender differences
  • R. BruffaertsAffiliated withDept. of Psychiatry, University Hospital Gasthuisberg Email author 
  • , M. SabbeAffiliated withDept. of Emergency Medicine, University Hospital Gasthuisberg
  • , K. DemyttenaereAffiliated withDept. of Psychiatry, University Hospital Gasthuisberg

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The aim of this study was to provide a clinical and epidemiological profile of patients consulting the psychiatric emergency team (PET) of an emergency service of a Belgian university hospital.


Of all PET patients (N = 1,050), demographic characteristics, axis I diagnosis, any axis II diagnosis, presenting problems, psychiatric antecedents, and patterns of referral were assessed.


Male patients presented more with hostility or violence towards others (10 %) and substance abuse (23 %); female patients presented more with suicidality (31%) and depressed mood (24 %). Male patients had more psychoactive substance use disorders (21 %); female patients had more mood (21%) and adjustment disorders (19 %). About 50% of the patients were unemployed and had sought psychiatric help in the past. Female patients were more often referred by the emergency physician (35%) and health care professionals (29 %); male patients were more often self-referred (23 %) and referred by the police (9 %).


A PET could overcome the discrepancy between the need of treatment and the effective use of mental health services. Male and female PET patients presented different complaints and were given different axis I diagnoses; they also had different pathways to care.

Key words

epidemiology psychiatric emergencies gender differences