A brief discussion about the terms suicidal attempt, self-mutilation and deliberate self-harm among adolescents.
Background: A number of clinicians and researchers support a distinction between suicide-attempters and self-mutilators. On the other side, we find those who call both the phenomena deliberate self-harm.
Issue questioned: The question is whether we can regard all the young people who practice self-harm as one group, or if they represent two different groups (with different personalities, ideation, motives, etc) who therefore act differently and hence need different treatment.
Method: Study of literature. Selected a agelimit 13-18years, and used the terms suicide-attempt, self-mutilation, self-injury and self-harm when searching in PubMed. Wanted both Norwegian and literature of other nationalities and all ranged by publication date.
Results: In epidemiological and clinical studies, the researcher have looked mainly at the same risk-factors; social-economic status, mental health, relationships, alcohol-abuse, type of suicidal behaviour and how serious it seemed to be. Some of the studies use the definitions for self-mutilation on the one side and on the other side suicide attempts. Some choose to use just the term deliberate self-harm.
Conclusion: It was not possible to make a conclusion on which definitions are most adequate to use in clinical practice. In medical literature there is no proper distinction between the terms. But, no matter which definition, the adolescents who self-harm is characterized by the same risk factors. And they represent a growing and important problem that needs more focus. These people need early identification and help. We also seem to need more research in this area.