Frequent visitors at the psychiatric emergency room (PER) constitute a small subgroup of patients, yet they are responsible for a disproportionate number of visits and thus claim considerable resources. Their needs are often left unmet and their repetitive visits reflect their dissatisfaction as well as that of PERs’ staff. Motivated by these dilemmas, this study systematically reviews the literature about frequent visitors at PER and seeks to answer two questions: What characterizes frequent visitors at PER in the literature? and What characterizes PER in the literature? Based on 29 studies, this paper offers answers to the two questions based on a strength weakness opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. The results of the review and subsequent analysis of the literature revealed the multiplicity and complexity of frequent visitors’ characteristics and how they appear to converge. Commonalities were more difficult to identify in PER characteristics. In some cases, this happened because the characteristics were poorly described or were context specific. As a result, it was not easy to compare the studies on PER. Based on SWOT and the findings of the analysis, the paper proposes new venues of research and suggests how the field of mental health might develop by taking into account its opportunities and threats.

Manuela Schmidt
Psychiatric Quarterly, March 2018, Volume 89, Issue 1