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Open Access Research article

The prevalence of self-reported deliberate self harm in Irish adolescents

Carolyn Morey12, Paul Corcoran1, Ella Arensman1* and Ivan J Perry3

Author Affiliations

1 National Suicide Research Foundation, 1 Perrott Avenue, College Road, Cork, Ireland

2 Inspire Foundation, PO Box 1790, Rozelle NSW 2039, Australia

3 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College Cork, Room 2.51, Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, College Road, Cork, Ireland

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:79  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-79

Published: 28 February 2008



Deliberate self harm is major public health problem, in particular among young people. Although several studies have addressed the prevalence of deliberate self harm among young people in the community, little is known about the extent to which deliberate self harm comes to the attention of medical services, the self harm methods used and the underlying motives. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of deliberate self harm in adolescents and the methods, motives and help seeking behaviour associated with this behaviour.


A cross-sectional survey using an anonymous self-report questionnaire was administered in 39 schools in the Southern area of the Health Service Executive, Ireland. Of the 4,583 adolescents aged 15–17 years who were invited to participate in the survey, 3,881 adolescents took part (response: 85%).


A lifetime history of DSH was reported by 9.1% (n = 333) of the adolescents. DSH was more common among females (13.9%) than males (4.3%). Self cutting (66.0%) and overdose (35.2%) were the most common DSH methods. A minority of participants accessed medical services after engaging in DSH (15.3%).


DSH is a significant problem in Irish adolescents and the vast majority do not come to the attention of health services. Innovative solutions for prevention and intervention are required to tackle DSH in adolescents.