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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 104, Issue 2, pp e124–e130 | Cite as

Emergency Department Presentations for Self-harm Among Ontario Youth

  • Jennifer BethellEmail author
  • Susan J. Bondy
  • W. Y. Wendy Lou
  • Astrid Guttmann
  • Anne E. Rhodes
Quantitative Research
  • 1 Downloads

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Self-harm is an important public health issue among youth, including as a major risk factor for suicide (a leading cause of death in this age group). This study used population-based emergency department data to describe clinical and demographic characteristics of emergency department presentations for self-harm among youth (12–17 year-olds) in the province of Ontario, Canada.

METHODS: Administrative data capturing every emergency department visit in Ontario between April 1, 2002 and March 31, 2009 were used to identify and describe self-harm presentations.

RESULTS: Over the 7-year period between 2002/03 and 2008/09, there were 16,835 self-harm presentations by 12,907 youth. Two thirds of self-harm presentations were self-poisonings (almost always with medicinal agents), followed by self-cutting, which accounted for about one quarter. Incidence rates were higher in girls than boys, increased with age, were inversely related to neighbourhood income and were highest in rural areas. Self-harm accounted for about 1 in 100 emergency department presentations by youth, but also a disproportionate number of presentations triaged as high acuity or admitted to hospital (about 1 in 20).

CONCLUSION: Self-harm is an important public health issue, requiring a comprehensive approach to prevention. Ontario has useful data with which to study emergency department presentations for self-harm, and the similarities between self-harm presentations among Ontario youth and those reported from the United States and Europe suggest generalizability of results between populations. Further research is needed to address the reasons for the geographic differences in frequency of self-harm.

Key Words

Self-injurious behavior emergency medical services child adolescent epidemiology 

Résumé

OBJECTIFS: L’automutilation est un important problème de santé publique chez les jeunes, ainsi qu’un grand facteur de risque de suicide (une des principales causes de mortalité dans ce groupe d’âge). À l’aide des données populationnelles des services d’urgence, nous décrivons le profil clinique et démographique de jeunes (12–17 ans) s’étant présentés aux urgences dans la province de l’Ontario, au Canada, après s’être automutilés.

MÉTHODE: Nous avons utilisé des données administratives saisissant toutes les visites aux urgences en Ontario survenues entre le 1er avril 2002 et le 31 mars 2009 pour repérer et décrire les cas d’automutilation.

RÉSULTATS: Sur les sept années de l’étude (2002–2003 à 2008–2009), il y a eu 16 835 cas d’automutilation chez 12 907 jeunes. Les deux tiers des cas d’automutilation étaient des auto-empoisonnements (presque toujours avec des agents médicinaux), suivis par des coupures autoinfligées (environ le quart des incidents). Les taux d’incidence étaient plus élevés chez les filles que chez les garçons, augmentaient avec l’âge, étaient inversement liés au revenu selon le quartier et atteignaient les plus hauts niveaux en milieu rural. L’automutilation représentait environ 1 cas sur 100 chez les jeunes s’étant présentés aux urgences, mais aussi un nombre démesuré de cas orientés vers les soins aigus ou hospitalisés (environ 1 sur 20).

CONCLUSION: L’automutilation est un important problème de santé publique qui exige une démarche de prévention globale. L’Ontario détient des données utiles pour étudier les cas d’automutilation gérés par les services d’urgence; les ressemblances entre les cas d’automutilation chez les jeunes de l’Ontario et ceux déclarés aux États-Unis et en Europe montrent que les résultats obtenus dans différentes populations pourraient être généralisables. Il faudrait pousser la recherche pour découvrir les raisons des écarts géographiques dans la fréquence de l’automutilation.

Mots Clés

comportement automutilatoire secours médicaux d’urgence enfant adolescent épidémiologie 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Bethell
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Susan J. Bondy
    • 2
  • W. Y. Wendy Lou
    • 2
  • Astrid Guttmann
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Anne E. Rhodes
    • 1
    • 6
    • 4
  1. 1.Suicide Studies Research UnitSt. Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Paediatrics and Department of Health Policy, Management and EvaluationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Institute for Clinical Evaluative SciencesTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Hospital for Sick ChildrenTorontoCanada
  6. 6.Department of Psychiatry and Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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