Emergency departments see higher rate of self-harm among homeless

Homeless accounted for 3.9% of people presenting with self-harm injuries over four years

Almost three-quarters of self-harm presentations among the homeless were among people living in Dublin or Cork city. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Almost three-quarters of self-harm presentations among the homeless were among people living in Dublin or Cork city. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Homeless people are 30 times more likely to present at hospital emergency departments with injuries caused by self-harm than those living at a fixed residence, a new study suggests.

Although the homeless population made up about 0.1 per cent of the total population in Ireland, they accounted for 3.9 per cent of all presentations of self-harm between 2010 and 2014.

Those who were homeless at presentation to hospital were more likely to be male and to present with highly lethal methods of self-harm.

There are just under 9,000 people homeless in Ireland, according to the latest figures from Focus Ireland.

The findings come from a collaborative study between the National Suicide Research Foundation and the HSE’s Department of Public Health which was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. The study examined self-harm among the homeless population, using data from the National Self-Harm Registry Ireland for the period 2010-2014.

Urban centres

There was a greater risk of presenting with repeated acts of self-harm among the homeless, while the impact of self-harm among the homeless was higher in urban centres than elsewhere in the country.

Almost three-quarters of self-harm presentations among the homeless were among people living in Dublin or Cork city.

The overall number of annual self-harm presentations in the homeless increased from 305 in 2010 to 513 in 2014.

The National Suicide Research Foundation said the findings indicate that the homeless are a “particularly vulnerable population” and enhanced efforts to prevent self-harm among this group are required.

It also recommended cross-sectoral changes to health and housing policy to prevent homelessness and improve access to appropriate care and enhanced training for healthcare and community-based professionals to increase awareness of self-harm and related mental health and social issues.