Deliberate self-harm in Oxford University students, 1993-2005: a descriptive and case-control study.
Mahadevan S., Hawton K., Casey D.
BACKGROUND: Deliberate self-harm (DSH; intentional self-poisoning or self-injury) is a major problem among young people and has been identified as one of the key mental health problems affecting students. METHOD: Data on DSH presentations to the general hospital in Oxford by Oxford University students were analysed for the 12-year period from 1993 to 2005. The characteristics of the students with DSH were compared with those of age-matched DSH controls in the Oxford City area. RESULTS: Problems with academic work, relationships with family, partners and friends were most likely to contribute to DSH episodes in students. Many experienced problems with psychiatric disorders and social isolation. The frequency of eating disorders was very high in students, and contributed to DSH significantly more often than in controls. Fewer students than controls self-poisoned in the DSH episode, fewer had personality disorder and fewer had problems with physical health, finance, housing and violence. Alcohol consumption in association with DSH and alcohol-related problems were common in both students and controls. Male students had significantly higher suicide intent than controls. Many students were referred to the university counselling service for follow-up, a resource not available to non-student controls. CONCLUSIONS: Comparison of university students following DSH with age-matched controls has shown key differences in psychiatric characteristics, problems contributing to DSH and aftercare offered. These findings may help in the design of targeted self-harm prevention and management strategies for students.