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Psychol Med. 1977 May;7(2):289-303.

People who deliberately poison or injure themselves: their problems and their contacts with helping agencies.


A representative sample of 130 people was interviewed shortly following self-poisoning or self-injury. The interview method is described. Events in the week prior to the attempt, and the incidence of various kinds of chronic problems are reported. Events involving key relationships were much more common than other kinds. The most important event was a quarrel, particularly in the 48 hours prior to the attempts and more common with female than with male attempters. The possible relevance of quarrels to understanding overdose behaviour is discussed. Nearly a third were receiving non-psychiatric treatment at the time of the 'attempt'. Approximately one quarter were currently receiving psychiatric treatment and a half had received it at some time. A substantial proportion had been admitted to either psychiatric or non-psychiatric hospitals within the past year. The proportions indicating the need for various kinds of help are reported. Most people said they needed 'someone to talk to'. More than half had been in contact with some form of helping agency during the week prior to the attempt. The possible significance of these findings is discussed. An attempt was made to look for 'syndromes' or groupings of problems. The resulting analysis, whilst of interest, did not lead to a satisfactory method for classifying individuals. It was concluded that a more satisfactory typology of 'attempters' is likely if types of relationship problems are investigated in more detail.

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