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The Facts About SDB

The Facts about Self-Destructive Behaviour

The one thing that is certain about self-destructive behaviour is that health professionals are polarised between the notions of a failed suicide attempt or a little known or emerging mental health issue. Yet clients tell us differently and no one appears to be listening.

In 1997-98 there were more than 25,120 episodes of hospital care due to self-harm. 78% were ages 15-44 years with females 15-29 years over represented.

51% more females aged 12-24 were hospitalised for self-harm in 2004-06 than in the previous decade while the figures for males was up 27%.

Poisoning is by far the most common means of self-harm, evident in 85% of female and 70% of male cases. 4 Other common forms of self-destructive behaviours can include cutting, burning, self-hitting, biting, eating disorders, hair pulling, bone breaking, wound interference and drugs and alcohol abuse. Yet …

“I am a 32 year old person, I say person because I don’t know who I really am. I have the body of a disfigured woman and the mind of a dead soul. Self-harming for me is a physical manifestation of the extreme internal distress and trauma I feel each day of my life. The feeling of guilt, shame, and self-hatred for what I allowed to happen in the past. It is my punishment, yet release from this intense inner pain”. 5

The majority of clients would say that they do not participate in this behaviour for attention seeking purposes nor to die, but to cope with and kill the inner pain and trauma they are feeling.


1 “SAFE Central” pilot program evaluation 2001-02
2 Steenkamp & Harrison, Australian Institute of Health & Welfare November 2000
3 Eldridge, Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, June 2008
4 Steenkamp & Harrison, Australian Institute of Health & Welfare November 2000
5 Perdie’s story – SAFE in Oz 2008
6. ‘SAFE Central’ pilot program evaluation 2001-02