Research Articles

The profile of deliberate self-poisoning cases presenting at the emergency department of Pelonomi Regional Hospital, Bloemfontein

M. O.A. Benedict, C. J. van Loggerenberg, W. J. Steinberg
South African Family Practice | Vol 61, No 1 : January/February| a5057 | DOI: | © 2019 M. O.A. Benedict, C. J. van Loggerenberg, W. J. Steinberg | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 November 2019 | Published: 08 March 2019

About the author(s)

M. O.A. Benedict, University of the Free State, South Africa
C. J. van Loggerenberg, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
W. J. Steinberg, University of the Free State, South Africa

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Background: A common method engaged in suicide is deliberate self-poisoning (DSP). Substances implicated in DSP include prescription and over-the-counter medicines, drugs, household chemicals, agrochemicals and herbal mixtures. Few studies have been conducted on DSP in South Africa, despite its occurrence and high management cost. This study aimed to determine the profile of patients treated for DSP at the emergency department of Pelonomi Regional Hospital, Bloemfontein, between January 2010 and July 2011. A profile of DSP cases will allow practitioners in this region to be aware of the magnitude, causes and common substances used, which will enable them to plan and execute an adequate management protocol to reduce mortality.
Methods: This was a retrospective, descriptive study. All DSP patients treated during the 18-month study period were identified from the emergency department register. The clinical files of these patients were reviewed and relevant information captured.
Results: In total, 260 DSP patients presented at the emergency department. Files for 212 (81.5%) patients had sufficient information and were included in the study. Two-thirds (66.0%, n = 140) of the patients were female and the highest percentage was in the age group 20–29 years (44.8%, n = 94). Most patients were black (81.1%, n = 150). Most resided in areas associated with low socioeconomic status, including informal settlements, farms and townships. The highest percentage of patients took paracetamol (21.7%, n = 46), while 19.3% (n = 41) ingested household chemicals and 9.9% (n = 21) antiretroviral medication. Only 81 of the 212 patient files had the reason for the DSP captured. Of these, half (49.4%) reported troubled relationships.
Conclusion: This study showed that DSP mostly occurred among females in the age group 20–29 years. Most of the patients resided in areas with poor socioeconomic status, and faced relationship, marital, employment and other psychosocioeconomic problems.


emergency service; parasuicide; poisoning; self-injurious behaviour; suicide


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