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Attitudes of Psychiatric Patients to Deliberate Self-poisoning

  • Keith Hawton (a1), John Bancroft (a1) and Susan Simkin (a1)


Attitudes towards self-poisoning were investigated in 80 psychiatric patients, half of whom themselves had previously taken overdoses. They were asked to comment about self-poisoners in general, and on four specific cases in particular. In addition to motives spontaneously suggested they were asked to choose from a list of alternative motives in explaining each case.

The subjects who had previously taken overdoses differed from the rest in seeing such behaviour as more often due to a disturbed state of mind and less often an expression of hostility. Both groups tended to see self-poisoners as mentally ill; and, unless they were offered a ‘vocabulary’ of goal-directed motives, they tended to see the behaviour as a reaction to events (i.e. expressive) rather than goal-oriented (i.e. Insteurnental). The implications of these findings are discussed.



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Bancroft, J. H. J., Skrimshire, A. M. & Simkin, S. (1976) The reasons people give for taking overdoses. British Journal of Psychiatry, 128, 538–48.
Birtchnell, J. & Alarcon, J. (1971) Depression and attempted suicide: a study of 91 cases seen in a casualty department. British Journal of Psychiatry, 118, 289–96.
Hawton, K. (1978) Deliberate self-poisoning and self-injury in the psychiatric hospital. British Journal of Medical Psychology. In press.
Hawton, K. Bancroft, J. H. J., Simkin, S., Kingston, B., Cumming, C. & Whitwell, D. Motivation for deliberate self-poisoning (in preparation).
Ramon, S., Bancroft, J. H. J. & Skrimshire, A. M. (1975) Attitudes towards self-poisoning among physicians and nurses in a general hospital. British Journal of Psychiatry, 127, 257–64.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Attitudes of Psychiatric Patients to Deliberate Self-poisoning

  • Keith Hawton (a1), John Bancroft (a1) and Susan Simkin (a1)
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