Non-fatal suicidal behaviour in rural Ethiopia: a cross-sectional facility- and population-based study

Background: Injury related to self-harm is one of the leading causes of global disease burden. As a formative work for a programme to implement comprehensive mental healthcare in a rural district in Ethiopia, we determined the 12-month prevalence of non-fatal suicidal behaviour as well as factors associated with this behaviour to understand the potential burden of the behaviour in the district. Method: Population-based (n = 1485) and facility-based (n = 1014) cross-sectional surveys of adults, using standardised, interview-based measures for suicidality (items on suicide from the Composite International Diagnostic Interview), depressive symptoms (the Patient Health Questionnaire) and alcohol use disorders (Alcohol Use Disorder Investigation Test; AUDIT). Results: The overall 12-month prevalence of non-fatal suicidal behaviour, consisting of suicidal ideation, plan and attempt, was 7.9 % (95 % Confidence Interval (CI) = 6.8 % to 8.9 %). The prevalence was significantly higher in the facility sample (10.3 %) compared with the community sample (6.3 %). The 12-month prevalence of suicide attempt was 4.4 % (95 % CI = 3.6 % to 5.3 %), non-significantly higher among the facility sample (5.4 %) compared with the community sample (3.8 %). Over half of those with suicidal ideation (56.4 %) transitioned from suicidal ideation to suicide attempt. Younger age, harmful use of alcohol and higher depression scores were associated significantly with increased non-fatal suicidal behaviours. The only factor associated with transition from suicidal ideation to suicide attempt was high depression score. Only 10.5 % of the sample with suicidal ideation had received any treatment for their suicidal behaviour: 10.8 % of the community sample and 10.2 % of the facility sample. Although help seeking increased with progression from ideation to attempt, there was no statistically significant difference between the groups. Conclusion: Non-fatal suicidal behaviour is an important public health problem in this rural district. A more in-depth understanding of the context of the occurrence of the behaviour, improving access to care and targeting depression and alcohol use disorder are important next steps. The role of other psychosocial factors should also be explored to assist the provision of holistic care.