The prevalence of previous self-harm amongst self-poisoning patients in Sri Lanka

Fahim Mohamed*, Aravinda Perera, Kusal Wijayaweera, Keerthi Kularatne, Shaluka Jayamanne, Michael Eddleston, Andrew Dawson, Flemming Konradsen, David Gunnell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background One of the most important components of suicide prevention strategies is to target people who repeat self-harm as they are a high risk group. However, there is some evidence that the incidence of repeat self-harm is lower in Asia than in the West. The objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence of previous self-harm among a consecutive series of self-harm patients presenting to hospitals in rural Sri Lanka.

Method Six hundred and ninety-eight self-poisoning patients presenting to medical wards at two hospitals in Sri Lanka were interviewed about their previous episodes of self-harm.

Results Sixty-one (8.7%, 95% CI 6.7-11%) patients reported at least one previous episode of self-harm [37 (10.7%) male, 24 (6.8%) female]; only 19 (2.7%, 95% CI 1.6-4.2%) patients had made more than one previous attempt.

Conclusion The low prevalence of previous self-harm is consistent with previous Asian research and is considerably lower than that seen in the West. Explanations for these low levels of repeat self-harm require investigation. Our data indicate that a focus on the aftercare of those who attempt suicide in Sri Lanka may have a smaller impact on suicide incidence than may be possible in the West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-520
Number of pages4
JournalSocial psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • Deliberate self-harm
  • Self-poisoning
  • Previous self-harm
  • Sri Lanka
  • Developing countries


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