Self-harm in UK armed forces personnel: descriptive and case–control study of general hospital presentations

Keith Hawton, Louise Harriss, Deborah Casey, Sue Simkin, Kate Harrison, Isabelle Bray, Nick Blatchley
2009 British Journal of Psychiatry  
Little is known about self-harm in the armed forces. Aims To investigate the characteristics of armed forces personnel presenting to a general hospital following self-harm and compare these with matched controls who had self-harmed. Method Investigation of armed forces personnel presenting to hospital between 1989 and 2003 following self-harm and case–control comparison with people in the general population who had self-harmed. Results One hundred and sixty-six armed forces personnel presented
more » ... ith self-harm during the study period, of whom 72.3% (120) were male. Nearly two-thirds (62.7%) were aged under 25 years. Relationship problems (62.0%), employment problems (43.9%) and alcohol misuse (40.5%) were common. Fewer armed forces personnel than controls had evidence of current or past psychiatric disorders or treatment or a prior history of self-harm, and their suicidal intent was lower (males only). Of 64 people in the armed forces who presented during the first 9 years of the study period, 1 had died (from natural causes) by the end of 2000, compared with 9 (5.1%) of the controls, 6 by probable suicide. Conclusions Self-harm by armed forces personnel may often be a response to interpersonal and employment problems complicated by alcohol misuse, with relatively low suicide intent.
doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.107.048595 pmid:19252158 fatcat:pq4kwbbafzepdaorggv3lcqolm