Factors associated with increased suicidal intent among deliberate self-harm patients treated in the emergency room of an urban hospital in South Africa

Master Thesis


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Background: Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year olds and 79% of global suicides occur in low- to-middle income countries. South Africa has the eight highest rate of suicide in the world, evidence that suicide is a serious public health concern. Identifying socio-demographic and clinical factors associated with high risk of serious self-harm or suicide, may be useful for improving patient care and strengthening appropriate referral pathways. Aim: To determine the sociodemographic and clinical factors associated with elevated levels of suicidal intent among self-harm patients who presented for treatment in the emergency room of an urban hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. Setting: A retrospective folder review of all patients who presented for treatment of deliberate self-harm to Groote Schuur Hospital. Methods: During the time period, 238 consecutive presentations for deliberate self-harm were identified and recorded on a data capture form.which obtained information about demographics, clinical characteristics and suicidal intent. The data was analysed using bivariate and multivariate analyses. Results: In our sample of 238 patients, 128 (54%) self-reported an elevated level of suicidal intent. Being of male gender, higher levels of education and having multiple reasons for selfharm were significant predictors of an elevated level of suicidal intent. Conclusion: Suicide is increasingly recognised as a serious public health problem globally, and in South Africa. Determining the socio demographic and clinical correlates for those at increased risk of suicidal behaviours, provides useful information on identifying vulnerable patients. This allows clinicians to improve patient risk assessment and public health awareness interventions may be closer targeted to at risk groups