May 17, 2017
1 min read

Study shows importance of screening for nonsuicidal self-injury

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Physical or sexual abuse significantly increased risk for nonsuicidal self-injury among adolescents referred to a community or inpatient mental health setting, according to recent findings.

“We found that about one in three adolescents with mental health problems in Ontario engaged in nonsuicidal self-injury,” Philip Baiden, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, said in a press release. “We were surprised to find that only the experience of adversities directed towards the child (physical and sexual abuse) predicted nonsuicidal self-injury and not adversities indicative of parental risk such as parental mental health issues or exposure to domestic violence.”

Philip Baiden

To determine prevalence and effect of adverse childhood experiences on nonsuicidal self-injury among children and adolescents referred to community and inpatient mental health settings, researchers analyzed data from the interRAI Child and Youth Mental Health dataset for 2,038 participants aged 8 to 18 years.

Overall, 29% (n = 592) of the cohort engaged in nonsuicidal self-injury.

Adolescents who were physically abused were 49% more likely to engage in nonsuicidal self-injury, and children and adolescents who were sexually abused were 60% more likely to engage in nonsuicidal self-injury, compared with peers who were not abused.

Older age, female gender, inpatient status, depression, ADHD, disruptive behavior disorder and mood disorders were predictors of non-suicidal self-injury.

Social support decreased risk for non-suicidal self-injury by 26%.

“Depression is one indication that an individual is having difficulty coping with his/her life situation and being depressed can severely impact one’s ability to regulate emotions and focus almost exclusively on the negative aspect of life. Among survivors of sexual abuse, depression can also manifest itself as emotional pain, for which nonsuicidal injury becomes an outlet,” study researcher Shannon Stewart, PhD, of Western University, London, Ontario, Canada, said in the release. – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: Please see the study for a full list of relevant financial disclosures.