Temporal variations in the distribution of self-harm episodes and methods across the Australian asylum seeker population: An observational study

by Kyli Hedrick, Gregory Armstrong, Guy Coffey, Rohan Borschmann


Temporal patterns in the frequency and characteristics of self-harm episodes across the Australian asylum seeker population may have implications for self-harm prevention and public health policy. The aim of this study was to examine how the distribution of self-harm episodes and method(s) of self-harm used across the Australian asylum seeker population vary according to the 24-hour cycle, day, and month, and to establish a basis for further research.

Methods and findings

We conducted an observational study of all 949 self-harm incidents reported across the Australian asylum seeker population (representing a monthly average of 28,992 adults) between 1 August 2014 and 31 July 2015, obtained by Freedom of Information (FOI) from the Department of Immigration. Time of self-harm, day, and month of occurrence were investigated across all five Australian asylum seeker populations (i.e., community-based arrangements, community detention, onshore immigration detention, offshore immigration detention [Nauru], and offshore immigration detention [Manus Island]). Significant variations in distributions over the 24-hour cycle were observed by processing arrangements. Compared with the average distribution across all other processing arrangements, self-harm more commonly occurred among community-based asylum seekers (36.3%) between 12:00 AM and 3:59 AM (p p = 0.02), and among asylum seekers in onshore detention (20.4%) between 8:00 PM and 11:59 PM (p p = 0.009), and self-battery (42%) between 8:00 AM and 11:59 AM (p p p = 0.002), and in October (2014) on Nauru (15%) (p Conclusions

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Self-harm in the Australian asylum seeker population was found to vary according to time of day and month of the year, by processing arrangements. A series of procedure-related and detention-related factors were observed to be associated with the temporal variations in self-harm. These findings should form the basis for further investigation into temporal variations in self-harm among asylum seekers, which may in turn lead to effective self-harm prevention strategies.

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Paper source
Plos Journal

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