Repeat non-fatal suicidal behaviour at Johannesburg Hospital

M YH Moosa, F Y Jeenah, M Vorster


Objective. To describe the characteristics of non-fatal suicide behaviour (NFSB) in a group of patients and to determine factors, if any, that may be associated with repetition of this behaviour.

Method. The study included all patients treated for NFSB at Johannesburg Hospital during the period August 2002 - October 2002. The information was gathered by means of a structured questionnaire designed to evaluate characteristics of the behaviour.

Results. The study sample comprised 43 patients with NFSB (mean age 29.7 years, range of 16 - 75 years), of whom 26 (60%) were female. Sixty-three per cent of the patients overdosed with medication and 33% ingested household poisons. Events that precipitated the event included relationship problems (70%), illness (12%), financial difficulties (9%), and depressed mood (9%). In 65% of patients the behaviour was impulsive. Factors associated with non-fatal repetition included being in the 18 - 30-year age group (76%) (χ2 = 6.74, p < 0.05); being female (90%) (χ2 = 4.75, p < 0.05); having children (90%) (χ2 = 4.72, p < 0.05); a past psychiatric history (50%) (χ2 = 4.08, p < 0.05); and the current attempt deemed medically serious (50%) (χ2 = 6.67, p < 0.05).

Conclusions. NFSB is a major problem in South Africa and the incidence is still increasing. Hospital-based interventions following admission are recommended to reduce repeat attempts in such patients. Significant factors associated with non-fatal repetition include among others, a history of a previous medically serious attempt and/or a known psychiatric illness.

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Submitted: 07 August 2008
Published: 01 December 2005

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)