oa South African Family Practice - Sociodemographic and clinical profiles of suicidal patients requiring admission to hospitals south of Durban : original research



Suicidal behaviour has become a major public health concern worldwide. Non-fatal suicidal attempts outnumber fatal episodes by wide-ranging figures across, and within, many countries. Approximately 6 500 suicides and 130 000 suicide attempts occur annually in South Africa, with at least one suicide taking place every 40 seconds, compared to one suicide attempt every three seconds. It is more common for all forms of suicidal behaviour to occur in younger persons. This study aimed to analyse the characteristics of suicide attempters who were admitted to two community-based state hospitals in the south of Durban.

Adult patients presenting at two university-affiliated state hospitals, following a suicide attempt during a two-year period, were invited to participate in the study. A World Health Organization standardised questionnaire was used to collect basic data relating to the suicide attempt. All participants provided informed consent. Data were analysed using SPSS® version 19.
The majority of the 688 participants were women who were young, single, unemployed, low-income earners, of Indian ethnicity, belonged to the Christian faith, and had a primary school education. Four hundred and thirty-eight participants (63.7%) suffered from varying levels of depression. The majority of suicide attempts (97.2%) had taken place within the home environment of the attempters. Self-poisoning emerged as the dominant method that was used by 92.2% of all attempters.
Disturbing levels of non-fatal suicidal behaviour were found in all the population groups. A number of modifiable factors were identified. These have implications for healthcare policy planners and prevention strategies.


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