An evaluation of factors underlying suicide attempts in patients presenting at George Hospital emergency centre
CITATION: Raubenheimer, L. & Jenkins, L. S. 2015. An evaluation of factors underlying suicide attempts in patients presenting at George Hospital emergency centre. South African Family Practice, 57(2):93-99, doi:10.1080/20786190.2014.976944.
The original publication is available at http://www.tandfonline.com
Background: Roughly 130 patients are seen daily in the emergency centre (EC) at George Provincial Hospital (GPH), of whom one or two will have attempted suicide. GPH serves the population of Eden and Central Karoo Districts. Little is known about the circumstances surrounding these suicide attempts. We examined this pattern and formulated a protocol for managing these patients. Method: All patients attending the EC after attempting suicide between December 2010 and April 2011 were identified from the EC register. Thirty nine patients gave consent and completed a questionnaire. The data were analysed in Excel®. Additional information was obtained from five members of a focus group. Results: Patients who attempted suicide had often attempted suicide previously. They came from a community with high levels of longstanding financial and domestic stress, violence, dysfunctional family relationships, alcohol abuse and poor coping skills. Suicide attempts generally involved impulsively taking prescription medication following an argument with a family member. Patients felt abandoned or alone, were physically or mentally abused, were subjected to alcohol abuse, or had underlying anxiety or depression. Conclusion: Patients who attempt suicide and attend GPH EC come from a chronically stressed community with dysfunctional family patterns and alcohol abuse and lack coping skills. A psychological support team has introduced a suicide-attempt protocol in the EC offering patients an opportunity to deal with their distress and learn better coping skills.