Young men who have taken a drug overdose are at greater risk of repeating self-harm and switching to different methods of self-harm, a new study by researchers at the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) has found.
The research examined data collated by the National Self-Harm Registry and represents the first published national study to look at the link between drugs and repeated self-harm in young people in Ireland .
The registry recorded 37,340 self-harm presentations by young people, from 10 to 24 years of age, over the 10-year period between 2009 and 2018.
The presentations related to 26,085 young people, 16,800 of whom had taken an intentional drug overdose.
Of those who had taken a drug overdose 2,136 repeated self-harm and the majority (82%) used the same method, while some switched to potentially more lethal methods.
On analysing the types of drugs and methods used, the researchers found a 10% risk that young people would self-harm again within a 12-month period if they had previously taken a drug overdose.
Other factors associated with repeated self-harm were consuming more than 50 tablets and taking certain prescribed medication.
The study concluded that young males were at increased risk of repeating self-harm and switching to another, potentiality more lethal, method of self-harm.
A mental health assessment was carried out for three-quarters of young people, who had presented at hospital following an intentional drug overdose.
On foot of the findings, the authors of the study recommended that mental health assessments are carried out in all cases where a young person presents at hospital with self-harm and that the availability of prescribed and over-the-counter drugs is more closely monitored for young people.
“We're recommending that all young people who present at a hospital emergency department with self-harm should receive a mental health assessment in line with best practice,” NSRF researcher Dr Caroline Daly said, adding that the study did not examine why one quarter of young people had not received an assessment.
“We’re also recommending that the prescribing of drugs to children and adolescents should align with national guidelines and that the availability of over-the-counter drugs should also be monitored for young people,” she added.
*If you are in crisis and need support please contact your GP or the Samaritans by calling 116 123 or online at www. samaritans .org. Local support information is also available on www.YourMentalHealth.ie.