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Little is known about self-harm in the armed forces.
To investigate the characteristics of armed forces personnel presenting
to a general hospital following self-harm and compare these with matched
controls who had self-harmed.
Investigation of armed forces personnel presenting to hospital between
1989 and 2003 following self-harm and case–control comparison with people
in the general population who had self-harmed.
One hundred and sixty-six armed forces personnel presented with self-harm
during the study period, of whom 72.3% (120) were male. Nearly two-thirds
(62.7%) were aged under 25 years. Relationship problems (62.0%),
employment problems (43.9%) and alcohol misuse (40.5%) were common. Fewer
armed forces personnel than controls had evidence of current or past
psychiatric disorders or treatment or a prior history of self-harm, and
their suicidal intent was lower (males only). Of 64 people in the armed
forces who presented during the first 9 years of the study period, 1 had
died (from natural causes) by the end of 2000, compared with 9 (5.1%) of
the controls, 6 by probable suicide.
Self-harm by armed forces personnel may often be a response to
interpersonal and employment problems complicated by alcohol misuse, with
relatively low suicide intent.
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