Self-harm and self-poisoning in southern India: choice of poisoning agents and treatment

Trop Med Int Health. 2009 Jul;14(7):761-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2009.02293.x. Epub 2009 May 26.


Objective: To record cases of suicide and attempted suicide among a population of 108 000 people living in a primarily rural area of southern India, with the aim of guiding policies and strategies to restrict access to poisonous compounds at community level.

Method: Community-based surveillance over a period of 2 years.

Results and conclusion: The overall suicide rate was 71.4 per 100 000 population; the highest burden was among men. Most people died through hanging (81, 54%) and self-poisoning (46, 31%). Of the 46 who died from self-poisoning, 78.3% had taken pesticides and 19.7% had eaten poisonous plants. Eighty per cent of the self-poisoning cases obtained the poisonous substance in or in close proximity to the home, highlighting the importance of safe storage in the domestic environment. Of the 110 fatal and non-fatal self-poisoning cases, 87 (57.5%) were taken for treatment; 50 (57.4%) went to government hospitals and 37 (42.5%) to private facilities. This indicates the importance of including the private sector in the efforts to improve case management. Furthermore, the fact that 31 (67%) of the self-poisoning patients, who eventually died, were alive after 4 h provides an incentive to focus on improved case management and access to health services.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pesticides / poisoning*
  • Prescription Drugs / poisoning*
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Pesticides
  • Prescription Drugs