BACKGROUND Psychiatric patients have a higher suicide risk following hospital discharge. AIMS To identify social, clinical and health-care delivery factors in recently discharged patients. METHOD Retrospective case-control study of 234 patients who died within 1 year of hospital discharge, matched for age, gender, diagnosis and admission period with 431 controls. Odds ratios for identified risk factors were calculated using conditional multiple logistic regression. RESULTS Independent increased-risk factors were: not being White; living alone; history of deliberate self-harm (DSH); suicidal ideation precipitating admission; hopelessness; admission under different consultant; onset of relationship difficulties; loss of job; in-patient DSH; unplanned discharge; significant care professional leaving/on leave. Reduced-risk factors were: shared accommodation; delusions at admission; misuse of non-prescribed substances; and continuity of contact. CONCLUSIONS Continuity of contact may reduce suicide risk. Discontinuity of care from a significant professional is associated with increased risk of suicide.