A study of suicide and attempted suicide by self-immolation in an Irish psychiatric population: an increasing problem

Burns. 1998 Mar;24(2):144-6. doi: 10.1016/s0305-4179(97)00096-x.


In the Western World self-immolation is an uncommon but dramatic method of attempting suicide. In-patients who attempt suicide by fire-setting tend to be female with severe psychopathology. In a previous study from the South of Ireland, seven cases from a psychiatric and prison population were identified in a five year period from 1984 to 1989. This would represent an annual rate of 1.07 per cent of burns treated in the burns unit at Cork University Hospital. In this study 12 cases were identified for the years 1994 and 1995. This represents an increase of 3.5 per cent from 1.07 to 4.6 per cent of all burns treated at the same institution. Ten of these patients had a previous psychiatric history and eight of them were resident on a psychiatric ward when they committed the act. Seven of the patients were found to have a high degree of suicide intent of whom four died of their injuries, which gives a mortality rate for this group of 33 per cent. Effective prevention policies are necessary if this increasing problem is to be curtailed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burn Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Burns / epidemiology*
  • Burns / psychology
  • Burns / therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / prevention & control
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*