Deliberate Self-Harm In Adolescents In Southern Sri Lanka: A Hospital Based Study

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Galle Medical Journal


Introduction: Little is known about adolescents who engage in deliberate self-harm (DSH). Therefore, using data from medical and police records of the Teaching Hospital Karapitiya, we examined patterns of DSH among young people. Methods: We examined records of episodes of DSH for 2001 and for the 5 year period from 2006 through 2010. Data on 1720 individuals between 10 and 18 years old were gathered. Results: There was a striking increase from 2001 to 2010 in admissions of young people with DSH. In 2001, there were 137 cases; in 2010, the number had nearly tripled (N=391). Case fatality rates were low; in 2001, it was 8%; in 2010, it was 0.25%. Comparing 2001 to 2010, cases involving poisons decreased from 58% to 46%; cases involving medicinal overdoses increased from 41% to 54%. Adolescents rarely used other methods. In 2001 and in each year from 2006 to 2010, adolescents aged 15-18 years accounted for at least 85% of the sample, and there were three times more girls than boys. Conclusion: Decreases in suicides have been substantial; nonetheless, rates of non-fatal DSH have climbed. We call for research on antecedents and correlates of DSH in groups at high risk, such as older adolescent girls.


Adolescents, Case fatality rate, Deliberate self-harm, Gender differences, Paracetamol