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Home > Self-harm in Irish prisons 2019: Third report from the Self-Harm Assessment and Data Analysis (SADA) project.

National Suicide Research Foundation, Irish Prison Service. (2021) Self-harm in Irish prisons 2019: Third report from the Self-Harm Assessment and Data Analysis (SADA) project. Longford: Irish Prison Service.

PDF (Self-harm in Irish prisons 2019: Third report)

The following are considered to be self-harm cases:

  • All methods of self-harm i.e. drug overdoses, alcohol overdoses, lacerations, attempted drownings, attempted hangings, burning, gunshot wounds, swallowing non-ingestible substances or objects and other behaviours likely to induce bleeding, bruising and pain etc. where it is clear that the self-harm was intentionally inflicted.
  • Food and/or fluid refusal, irrespective of duration.
  • Overdose of prescription or illicit substances where there is intent to self-harm.
  • Alcohol overdose (e.g. hooch) where the intention was to self-harm. 

The most common method of self-harm recorded was self-cutting (n=132; 64.7%). Self-cutting was involved in 70.5% of male episodes and 52.3% of female episodes. Attempted hanging (n=43; 21.1%), chemical/noxious substances (n=10: 4.9%), blunt objects (n=8; 3.9%) and intentional drug overdose (n=6; 2.9%) were the only other common methods of self-harm (see report table 3).

Fifty percent of episodes (n=<5) involving intentional drug overdose required hospital outpatient or accident and emergency department treatment and 16.7%. 

Mental health issues were the most common contributory factor across all themes (n=90, 44.3%). The category of mental health issues includes mental disorders (mood disorder, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorder, psychosis, personality disorder), as well as problems with hopelessness/low mood. Poor coping/difficulties managing emotions was the next most common factor recorded in 29.1% of incidents (n=59). Substance misuse and addiction, including drug use, as well as drug seeking, was in recorded in 19.2% of episodes (n=39). Impulsivity was recorded as a contributory factor in 12.3% of self-harm episodes.

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