UK study shows low testing of self-harmers

A new study shows just over half of people hospitalised because of self-harm in the UK receive a mental health assessment, despite being at a higher risk of suicide.


England’s Multicentre Study of Self-Harm looked at more than 84,000 cases over 12 years and found that a “psychosocial assessment” by specialist staff occurred in 53.2 per cent of cases.

This is despite National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines in 2004 stating an assessment should be given in all cases.

Writing in the online journal BMJ Open, the team led by Professor Keith Hawton from the University of Oxford said people who “self-injured” were less likely, compared to those who had taken an overdose, to receive a mental health assessment.

“Our finding that only a little over half of individuals presenting to hospital after self-harm were offered psychosocial assessment and that individuals who self-injured were least likely to receive an assessment, coupled with the rise in self-injury as a method of self-harm and the link between such methods and suicide, may have important implications for the management of self-harm in hospitals,” they wrote.

The paper also noted that while the “vast majority” of cases involved poisoning, “there is a stronger risk of suicide following self-cutting compared to self-poisoning”.

The study, which involved Oxford, the University of Manchester and Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, looked at 84,378 episodes of self-harm involving 47,048 people at five hospitals in Oxford, Manchester and Derby between 2000 and 2012.

* For support and information about suicide prevention, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 and the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.