NI A&E departments dealing with 23 cases of self-harm every day

The report said the most common method of self-harm was drug overdose
The report said the most common method of self-harm was drug overdose

An average of 23 people per day have been seen by emergency departments in the Province as a result of self-harming over a three-year period.

The shocking statistic is included in a report released today by the Public Health Agency (PHA), lifting the lid on the extent of self-harm in Northern Ireland.

Drug overdosing was the most common form of self-harm while January 1 was the day when self-harm cases increased dramatically.

The overall rate of self-harm per 100,000 of the population increased by 12% between 2012 and 2015.

Statistics showed 16,301 individuals were treated over a three year period, with many of those presenting themselves at emergency departments on multiple occassions, taking the overall number of cases dealt with to 25,620.

Self-harm presentations by those under 18 years of age contributed to 10% of all presentations during the three-year period. The majority of these self-harm presentations were female (70%).

Cases of self-harm accounted for 17.3% of all presentations at Royal Victoria Hospital’s emergency department, with the largest number of self-harm presentations (7,594) being recorded in the Belfast area.

The report found that increased numbers of self-harm cases were observed on January 1, March 18 and July 12. For example the average for January 1 was 43 cases, while the overall daily average was 23.

The most common method of self-harm was drug overdose, which was involved in almost three-quarters of all self-harm presentations. Self-cutting was also a common method of self-harm, present in one-quarter of all presentations.

Paracetamol was present in some form in 38% of overdoses while alcohol was involved in half of all self-harm presentations.

Brendan Bonner, co-author of the report, said: “Self-harm has a serious impact on the person involved and those around them, so we want to increase our understanding of the issue and key trends around this type of behaviour so we can design our services to best meet the needs of those who need them.

“Data have now been collected for three full calendar years, which provide sufficient statistics over a significant period of time to identify the nature of the problem, chart key trends of self-harming behaviour, and inform our future approach to tackling this issue in our communities in a targeted and effective way.”

The PHA urged anyone who has done something which might result in serious harm to go hospital or, in urgent cases, call 999.