September 10, 2008



A TOTAL of 8,600 people presented to hospital last year in 11,100 incidences of deliberate self-harm, according to the annual report of the National Registry of Deliberate Self Harm.

The figures represent a 2 per cent increase on 2006 when 8,200 people made 10,700 presentations to hospital.

Meanwhile, one in every 165 Irish adolescent girls was treated in hospital last year and the year before as a result of deliberate self-harm, according to statistics published today by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), contained in the report.

Published on World Suicide Prevention Day, the national registry report shows almost half of all self-harm presentations (46-47 per cent) were by people under 30, and 88 per cent were by people aged under 50.

Prof Ivan Perry, director of the registry and head of the department of epidemiology and public health at UCC, said the annual report continued to provide a rich source of data on appropriate and early interventions that should be planned.

"The rise in the rate of repeated self-harm gives some cause for concern as we know the strong link between repetition of self-harm and suicide," Prof Perry said.

"The high levels of deliberate self-harm [DSH] and suicide among young men underline the need to develop a system that enables linking DSH data with suicide mortality data, which would enhance our understanding of risk factors associated with suicide."

Director of research at the NSRF Dr Ella Arensman pointed out that rates of deliberate self-harm in Ireland had increased in 2007 for the first time in three years. The new statistics showed that men now had a higher risk of engaging in repeated self-harm than women, she said.

"We are dealing with a very significant problem in this country. We would recommend that there should not be any cuts to services in this area and that there is appropriate assessment of those who self-harm," she told The Irish Times.

The report noted that the incidence of deliberate self-harm continued to exhibit marked variation by geographic area. The rate was highest in the HSE Dublin/North East Region and lowest in the HSE West Region.

City rates of deliberate self-harm generally exceeded those of the counties, particularly for men.

Increased deprivation and social fragmentation were associated with increased rates of deliberate self-harm. The study and registry findings suggest deprived urban areas should be given priority when implementing community-based interventions aimed at reducing deliberate self-harm.

"The ongoing high rates of deliberate self-harm in Ireland reflect the high level of psychological and psychiatric morbidity in the population.

"This highlights the need for continued support of the national mental health awareness campaign and related mental health promotion initiatives being undertaken by the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention," the authors of the report state. They highlight the need for further development of standardised evidence-based interventions.

© 2008 The Irish Times