October 5, 2010

Self-harm is a widespread problem in Ireland and patients often have a negative experience of care at emergency departments, a conference has heard.

Nearly 12,000 people who self-harmed were seen in hospitals last year and that was an increase of 5% on the previous year and 11% on 2008.

The Irish Association of Suicidology, which organised today's conference on self harm in Sligo, says it is estimated that the real incidence is much higher with 60,000 cases every year of people who do not seek medical help.

Professor of Public Health and Head of the Dept of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCC Ivan Perry said that between 2003 and 2008 nearly 63,200 presentations were recorded in emergency departments involving just over 41,200 individuals with the rate of females presenting 36% higher than males.

There was a clear peak in the 15-19 age group among women and the 20-24 age group for men.

Professor Keith Hawton of the Centre for Suicide Research at Oxford University said the strong link between deliberate self-harm and suicide mean that effective management in general hospitals and follow-up after discharge is essential for suicide prevention.

However, he said patients often have negative experiences of care in hospital and meet with negative attitudes from hospital staff.

President McAleese is due to address the conference this afternoon.