Objective — Suicide rates are often high in rural areas. Despite the strong association between deliberate self-harm (DSH) and suicide, few have studied rural residence and DSH. Self-poisonings dominate DSH hospital presentations. We investigate a previously reported association between rural residence and medical severity (defined as a subsequent medical/surgical inpatient stay) among emergency department presentations for medicinal self-poisoning (SP) to determine whether differences in agents taken, mental health service use or hospital-level resources explain the relationship.
Method — A cohort of n=16,294 12–64-year olds presenting with SP to hospital emergency departments in Ontario, Canada, in 2001/2002 was linked to their service records over time.
Results — The rural–medical severity association was best explained by differences in hospital resources; presenting to hospitals providing inpatient psychiatric services appeared to reduce medical/surgical inpatient stays in favor of psychiatric ones. Among those with a recent psychiatric admission, more intensive ambulatory psychiatric contact may be protective of a psychiatric inpatient stay subsequent to the SP presentation. Compared to nonrural residents, deliberate intent was identified less often in rural residents, particularly males.
Conclusions — The rural–medical severity association was best explained by disparities in the delivery systems serving rural and nonrural residents, important to rural suicide prevention efforts.
Rural/northern health services