Deliberate self-harm patients of no fixed abode: a study of characteristics and subsequent deaths in patients presenting to a general hospital.
Haw C., Hawton K., Casey D.
BACKGROUND: International studies report high rates of deliberate self-harm (DSH) and suicide in the homeless. Little is known about DSH among homeless people in the UK and their subsequent risk of death from suicide and non-suicidal causes. METHOD: We have carried out a study of no fixed abode (NFA) patients using data collected through the Oxford Monitoring System for Attempted Suicide. We describe the demographic and clinical characteristics of NFA DSH patients and the findings of a mortality follow-up study of a cohort of these patients. RESULTS: Between July 1988 and December 2002, 10,346 persons presented following 17,352 DSH episodes. Of these persons, 374 (3.6%) were of NFA. Compared with domiciled DSH patients, NFA patients were more likely to be male, single, unemployed, to have been a recent victim of violence and violent towards others, to have a criminal record and to have a personality disorder. More NFA patients faced problems with drugs and alcohol, social isolation, finances, the law and housing and had received psychiatric treatment within the previous 12 months. Substantially more NFA patients had a past history of DSH and re-presented with a further episode of DSH within 12 months. In the cohort of DSH patients who presented between January 1978 and December 1997 and who were followed up until December 2000, mortality from probable suicide and from all causes was approximately double that of domiciled patients. CONCLUSIONS: NFA DSH patients are a vulnerable group of patients at high risk of DSH repetition and with increased mortality from all causes. Good liaison between medical and psychiatric services is important. Specialist services may need to be developed to meet the particular needs of this patient group.