Research

The profile of patients presenting with intentional self-poisoning to the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital emergency department, South Africa

A E Laher, F Motara, R Gihwala, M Moolla

Abstract


Background. With 23.5 suicide-related deaths per 100 000 population, South Africa (SA) has the eighth-highest age-standardised suicide rate in the world. Intentional self-poisoning is associated with significant morbidity, mortality and cost. In SA, self-poisoning is the leading method of suicide in females and the second leading method in males.

Objectives. To determine the profile of patients presenting with intentional self-poisoning to the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital emergency department.

Methods. The study was a cross-sectional, retrospective audit of the medical records of patients who presented over a 12-month period with intentional self-poisoning.

Results. Of the 288 patients included, 62.8% were female, 62.1% were aged 18 - 30 years, 22.2% were foreign nationals, 88.9% were single, 62.8% were unemployed, 82.3% reported that the episode was precipitated by an acute stressful event, 5.6% required intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and 4.5% died prior to hospital discharge. Organophosphate/carbamate pesticide ingestion was the most common method of self-poisoning (25.3%) and was responsible for the majority of ICU admissions (81.3%), cases requiring hospitalisation for >6 days (56.5%) and deaths (69.2%).

Conclusion. A large proportion of patients were female, 18 - 30 years of age, single, unemployed, and reported an acute stressful event as a precipitant. Organophosphate/carbamate pesticide ingestion was the most common method of self-poisoning and accounted for the majority of deaths and ICU admissions. Nationwide efforts should be aimed at enhancing awareness and implementing strategies to identify those at increased risk of suicidal behaviour.


Authors' affiliations

A E Laher, Department of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

F Motara, Department of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

R Gihwala, Department of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

M Moolla, Department of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Keywords

Suicide; Suicidal behaviour; Parasuicide; Intentional self-poisoning; Overdose; Organophosphate; Carbamate; Pesticide ingestion

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2022;112(5):347-351.

Article History

Date submitted: 2022-04-29
Date published: 2022-04-29

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