Alcohol use, self-harm and suicide: a scoping review of its portrayal in the Sri Lankan literature

Jane Brandt Sørensen*, Melissa Pearson, Janaka Pushpakumara, Dominique Leth-Sørensen, Alexandra Buhl, Flemming Konradsen, Lalith Senarathna

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Suicide is a global public health problem. Compared to other middle-income countries, much literature has been generated on the topic of self-harm and suicide in Sri Lanka. Harmful use of alcohol is a well-known risk factor to self-harm and suicide, however the connection needed further exploration. Aim: The aim was to investigate alcohol's role in self-harm and suicide in Sri Lanka to inform policy and prevention programs and future research priorities. Methods: We performed a scoping review exploring how the association between alcohol use, self-harm and suicide in Sri Lanka is presented in scientific literature from August 1, 2008 to December 31, 2022. Thematic analysis was used to explore emerging themes. Results: Altogether 116 peer-reviewed articles were included. Three themes emerged: (i) gendered, inter-relational explanations of alcohol's role in self-harm, (ii) hospital management of patients who co-ingested alcohol and pesticides, and (iii) proposed research and interventions targeting alcohol, self-harm and suicide. The articles' recommendations for policy, prevention and research priorities included: Family- and community-based alcohol, self-harm and suicide reduction interventions; viewing self-harm as a window of opportunity for health personnel to intervene in families affected by harmful alcohol consumption; and introduction of and increased access to treatment of alcohol use disorder at the individual level. Conclusion: Suggestions for alcohol, self-harm, and suicide prevention interventions were primarily targeted at the community, though this might also reflect the limited treatment, mental health, and alcohol support available in the country. Future research should explore and test context-appropriate interventions integrating alcohol and self-harm prevention and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17566
Issue number7
Early online date24 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Alcohol
  • Scoping review
  • Self-harm
  • Sri Lanka
  • Suicide


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