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Who is reported missing from Canadian hospitals and mental health units?

Lorna Ferguson (Department of Sociology, University of Western Ontario, London Ontario, Canada)
Laura Huey (Department of Sociology, University of Western Ontario, London Ontario, Canada)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 13 May 2020

Issue publication date: 2 June 2020

Abstract

Purpose

International literature on missing persons suggests that a significant volume of missing person cases originate from hospitals and mental health units, resulting in considerable costs and resource demands on both police and health sectors (e.g., Bartholomew et al., 2009; Sowerby and Thomas, 2017). In the Canadian context, however, very little is known about patients reported missing from these locations – a knowledge deficit with profound implications in terms of identifying and addressing risk factors that contribute to this phenomenon. The present study is one such preliminary attempt to try to fill a significant research and policy gap.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors draw on data from a sample of 8,261 closed missing person reports from a Canadian municipal police service over a five-year period (2013–2018). Using multiple logistic regression, the authors identify, among other factors, who is most likely to be reported missing from these locations.

Findings

Results reveal that several factors, such as mental disabilities, senility, mental illness and addiction, are significantly related to this phenomenon. In light of these findings, the authors suggest that there is a need to develop comprehensive strategies and policies involving several stakeholders, such as health care and social service organizations, as well as the police.

Originality/value

Each year, thousands of people go missing in Canada with a large number being reported from hospitals and mental health units, which can be burdensome for the police and health sectors in terms of human and financial resource allocation. Yet, very little is known about patients reported missing from health services – a knowledge deficit with profound implications in terms of identifying and addressing risk factors that contribute to this phenomenon. This manuscript seeks to remedy this gap in Canadian missing persons literature by exploring who goes missing from hospitals and mental health units.

Keywords

Citation

Ferguson, L. and Huey, L. (2020), "Who is reported missing from Canadian hospitals and mental health units?", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 43 No. 3, pp. 525-540. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-12-2019-0191

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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