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Acts of self-poisoning and self-injury carried out by in-patients and day patients while in treatment at two psychiatric hospitals were recorded over a one-year period. Comparison with results from a survey based on referrals to a general hospital in the same area demonstrated that the rate at which these events occurred was over 50 times greater for patients in psychiatric care than in the general population. A larger proportion of the psychiatric hospital incidents involved self-injury. Analysis of the records of a consecutive series of all psychiatric hospital patients revealed that at least one-third had a previous history of self-poisoning or self-injury. Of the patients carrying out such acts in one hospital, 77 per cent had a history of this behaviour prior to admission. Clusters of incidents were identified. Possible factors underlying this behaviour in the hospital setting and means of prevention are suggested.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Med Psychol

Publication Date





253 - 259


England, Female, Hospitals, Psychiatric, Humans, Male, Mental Disorders, Poisoning, Recurrence, Self Mutilation, Suicide