Factors associated with intentional self-harming behaviours among patients admitted to an Ekurhuleni District Hospital

Mugisha, E
Mugisha, Elsie
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Background: The single most important predictor of death by suicide is having engaged in one or more acts of self-harming behaviours. Annually, 7 582 people in South Africa die from self-harm; with as many as 151 646 suicide attempts. Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the factors associated with intentional self-harming behaviour among patients admitted to a district hospital. Methods: This was a descriptive cross-sectional study of all patients’ medical records admitted for intentional self-harm between June 2016 and June 2018 at Bertha Gxowa Hospital, a district hospital in Ekurhuleni Health District which provides level one health care service to Germiston. A modified version of the World Health Organization (WHO) Practice Manual data collection tool was used. The data recorded on collection sheets was then entered into Microsoft Exceland analysed using SAS|®. Results: One hundred and thirty-six patient records were reviewed. Patients prone to self-harming behaviours were mostly black single females aged 14-24 years who were unemployed but did not use alcohol. The method most commonly used was self-poisoning (93,4%). The commonest reason for attempt was interpersonal conflict (74,3%). Statistically significant factors associated with self-harming behaviours were employment status, alcohol use or not as well as history of attempts. Conclusion: Health care workers working in primary and mental healthcare settings should have a higher index of suspicion for young black single female patients especially with a history of unemployment, no alcohol use and first self-harm attempt. Besides being a medical problem, this should be a societal problem.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Medicine in Family Medicine (M. Med in Fam. Med)