Who’s going to leave? An examination of absconding events by forensic inpatients in a psychiatric hospital – 2018

Absconding is a potentially risky event that has wide reaching consequences both for the institution and greater community; however, few studies have examined the characteristics of clients who abscond, their motivations, and details about their absconding event, especially within a forensic context. The purpose of this research was to determine if risk factors could be identified that might predict absconding behavior. A retrospective chart review was conducted of all reported absconding events between 1 January 2012 and 31 August 2015 by clients on forensic units in a public psychiatric hospital in Ontario, Canada. In addition, these clients were matched with a comparison group. Categories of motivations for absconding including goal-directed, frustration/boredom, symptomatic/disorganized, and impulsive/opportunistic were identified. The best indicator of a client’s risk for absconding was having experienced a stressful, significant event in the two weeks prior to the absconding event. Additionally, total scores on the HCR-20 and the presence of a co-occurring substance use disorder differentiated the absconders from the comparison group. This research contributes to our knowledge base regarding absconding events by forensic psychiatric patients and highlights specific targets for clinical staff in assessing risk for absconding and managing privileges leading to more effective care planning.

Krystle Martin, Matthew McGeown, Marjory Whitehouse & Wendy Stanyon
The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 26 Apr 2018