Reaching for the bottle of pesticide--a cry for help. Self-inflicted poisonings in Sri Lanka

Soc Sci Med. 2006 Apr;62(7):1710-9. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.08.020. Epub 2005 Sep 13.


This long-term study in Sri Lanka explored the complexities behind self-inflicted pesticide poisonings by 166 Sri Lankans. Using or threatening to use pesticides for self-harm has become a response to stressful events and a powerful message towards a specific individual, or to the outside world in general, conveying misgiving, anger, sadness, hopelessness, frustration, or simply a way to manipulate a situation to one's own advantage. The effects of alcohol misuse are especially important in understanding self-harm at the community level in terms of the impact they have on the domestic environment. Also, issues around "love affairs," arranged marriages and domestic physical, sexual or psychological abuse in the domestic environment are referred to by many self-harmers or their relatives as a reason for ingesting poison. Clearly, easy access to lethal pesticides by impulsive individuals often living under economically or psychosocially stressful conditions, combined with insufficient treatment facilities and limited outreach programs, can be a deadly blend. A strategy aimed at reducing the availability of the most toxic pesticides and improving case management should be implemented, as it is likely to reduce death from pesticides although unlikely to impact on the number of episodes. Support to families plagued by domestic violence and male alcohol misuse is essential to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable and to reduce the number of self-harm episodes in the long-term.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Pesticides / poisoning*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sri Lanka
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide Prevention*


  • Pesticides