Research

Suicide in Pretoria: A retrospective review, 2007 - 2010

Cornelia Engelbrecht, Ryan Blumenthal, Neil K Morris, Gert Saayman

Abstract


Background. The World Health Organization has declared suicide a global ealth crisis, predicting that ~1.53 million people will commit suicide annually by 2020.

Objective. A study from South Africa reviewed 1 018 suicide cases in Pretoria over 4 years (1997 - 2000). Our study was undertaken to establish whether there have been substantial changes in the profile of suicide victims who died in Pretoria a decade later.

Methods. Case records at the Pretoria Medico-Legal Laboratory were reviewed retrospectively from 2007 to 2010.

Results. A total of 957 suicide cases were identified. Hanging was the most common method of suicide, followed by self-inflicted firearm injury. The true incidence of suicidal intake of prescription drugs/medication was difficult to determine, because of a backlog at the state toxicology laboratories. White males and females appeared to be over-represented among suicide victims, but there has been an increase in suicide among blacks. There seems to have been a substantial decrease in the use of firearms to commit suicide – possibly reflecting a positive outcome of gun control legislation that has been introduced in the interim.

Conclusion. Suicide continues to constitute almost 10% of all fatalities admitted to the Pretoria Medico-Legal Laboratory, confirming suicide as a major cause of mortality in our society. Further research is needed to clarify the profile of suicidal deaths, with a view to informing resource allocation and to improve preventive strategies.


Authors' affiliations

Cornelia Engelbrecht, Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Ryan Blumenthal, Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Neil K Morris, Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Gert Saayman, Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Keywords

Pretoria; Medico-Legal Laboratory; South Africa; Suicide; Unnatural deaths

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2017;107(8):715-718. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v107i8.12034

Article History

Date submitted: 2017-07-28
Date published: 2017-07-28

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