Psychological Medicine

Attempted suicide in west London, II. Inter-group comparisons

D. BHUGRA a1c1, D. S. BALDWIN a1, M. DESAI a1 and K. S. JACOB a1
a1 Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, London; and Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Biological Sciences, University of Southampton


Background. Previous studies of attempted suicide have suggested that cultural and social factors play a significant role in the causation of deliberate self-harm.

Method. In order to measure elements of culture conflict two inter-group comparisons were undertaken. In the first, 27 Asian women who had presented to hospital services following attempted suicide (Asian group) were matched with a group of similar age Asian women attending GP surgeries for other reasons (Asian GP attenders group). The second comparison was between the Asian and 46 White attempters.

Results. On comparing Asian attempters with Asian GP attenders group the former were more likely to have a history of previous suicidal behaviour, to have a psychiatric diagnosis, and be unemployed. Their parents were more likely to have arrived in the United Kingdom at an older age. In addition, those who attempted suicide were more likely to have been in an inter-racial relationship and to have changed religions. In the second inter-group comparison, the characteristics of Asian and White suicide attempt patients were examined. White attempters were more likely to have mental illness, and were more likely to use alcohol as part of the method of attempted suicide. By contrast, Asian attempters had experienced life events pertaining to relationships, took fewer tablets and yet expressed greater regret at not succeeding in the attempt.

Conclusions. Although numbers are small, social stress and other cultural factors play an important role in the act of deliberate self-harm.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Dinesh Bhugra, Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF.