Background. While recent studies have found problem-solving impairments in individuals who engage in deliberate self-harm (DSH), few studies have examined repeaters and non-repeaters separately. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether specific types of problem-solving are associated with repeated DSH.
Method. As part of the WHO/EURO Multicentre Study on Suicidal Behaviour, 836 medically treated DSH patients (59% repeaters) from 12 European regions were interviewed using the European Parasuicide Study Interview Schedule (EPSIS II) approximately 1 year after their index episode. The Utrecht Coping List (UCL) assessed habitual responses to problems.
Results. Factor analysis identified five dimensions – Active Handling, Passive-Avoidance, Problem Sharing, Palliative Reactions and Negative Expression. Passive-Avoidance – characterized by a pre-occupation with problems, feeling unable to do anything, worrying about the past and taking a gloomy view of the situation, a greater likelihood of giving in so as to avoid difficult situations, the tendency to resign oneself to the situation, and to try to avoid problems – was the problem-solving dimension most strongly associated with repetition, although this association was attenuated by self-esteem.
Conclusions. The outcomes of the study indicate that treatments for DSH patients with repeated episodes should include problem-solving interventions. The observed passivity and avoidance of problems (coupled with low self-esteem) associated with repetition suggests that intensive therapeutic input and follow-up are required for those with repeated DSH.