In the 10 years from 1970 to 1979 there were 224 known episodes of parasuicide involving 158 patients (71 per cent women) registered with doctors in a group practice in a health centre in South East London. Nearly 40 per cent of patients were known to have repeated parasuicide at least once. Self-poisoning by drugs was the commonest method. Nearly three quarters of the drugs used had been prescribed by doctors and just under 60 per cent of the study patients had consulted their doctor within the 28 days preceding parasuicide. Personality disorder was the most frequent psychiatric diagnosis and was often associated with depression. There was no past or present evidence of psychiatric abnormality in 22 per cent. The most frequent precipitating cause of parasuicide was a breakdown in personal relationships. The annual total of episodes fell in the last two years of the study, but it is not yet clear whether this marks a significant development. Six of the patients died from suicide during the study period.