Life events in 82 self-poisoning subjects were studied using the Bedford College LEDS to see whether there was a difference between those who had a clear depressive syndrome (according to the Present State Examination) and the remainder. Equally high levels of severely threatening events were found in the depressed and non-depressed groups, but the former were older, had experienced more chronic difficulties and had been treated more often in the past for depression. Greatest numbers of life events were found in those with high levels of extrapunitiveness (recorded on the HDHQ), whereas those who had not experienced a severe life event showed predominance of intropunitiveness. Suicidal intent was not related to experience of life events, but has previously been shown to be associated with high intropunitiveness. The findings are discussed in the light of current theories linking life events, depression and parasuicide, and emphasise the need for longitudinal studies to examine these factors in relation to repeated parasuicide.