Self-Harm on Rise
THERE has been a significant increase in the number of people in the west engaging in deliberate self-harm.
The number of deliberate self-harm (DSH) cases presenting to Irish hospitals between 2007 and 2009 rose by 23% in men and 13% in women, from a total of 11,084 cases in 2007 to 11,966 in 2009, according to the latest figures from the National Registry of Deliberate Self-Harm.
The greatest increases were in the 20-29 age group for both men and women.
The largest increase in cases of DSH was between 2008 and 2009 as the recession heightened, corresponding with a significant increase in the national suicide figures.
The most common forms of DSH in men and women were deliberate overdose and self-cutting.
The figures show that the number of male and female DSH patients in Mayo rose from 208 to 264 in 2009. In Sligo there were 137 cases for men and 117 for women, and in Galway there were 337 male DSH patients and 296 female patients.
In Mayo General Hospital, 19.9% of patients treated had been admitted before for self-harm. In Sligo, 19.6% were repeat patients and in University College Hospital, Galway, the figure was 15.4%.
The deliberate self-harm rate is highest among the young -- among 15 to 19 year-olds for women and 20 to 24 year-olds for men.
Dr. Ella Arensman, director of research at the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) which compiles the registry, warned that the figures were only the tip of the iceberg as many people who engaged in DSH were never seen by the health services.
She said that in areas with significantly increased DSH rates in men, there were indications of a strong link with the impact of the economic recession, for example a rise in unemployment among young men in the building trade.
Company Steps Up
A SLIGO-based senior company executive, Declan Walsh, has received assurances from pharmaceutical manufacturer Elan that the company will work closely with his Deferno Trust to provide support and detailed information relevant to his wife's condition.
His wife, Dr. Natalie Murphy, contracted an incurable deadly brain disease while using Elan's Tysabri multiple sclerosis treatment. Elan's new chairman Bob Ingram and CEO Kelly Martin confirmed at the company's annual general meeting that Elan will support the Deferno Trust, a foundation established by Walsh, a shareholder and finance professional, providing it with all research on his wife's ailment, Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML).
Addressing Elan’s directors, Walsh invited Elan to make all resources available to ensure his wife received the best possible care. He called on the company to appoint a patient liaison officer to assist patients and families, free of “hospital jargon.” and asked Elan and its partner on Tysabri, Biogen, to sponsor a PhD research program in the area of Tysabri-related PML in the name of the Deferno Trust.
“As a research professional herself, with a PhD in pharmacology, Natalie has always championed the need for constant research,” Walsh said.
Ingram commended Walsh on his “poignant words” and said there was “clearly an obligation” on Elan.
“It is an inspiring story in many ways, albeit tragically,” he said. “I have no doubt that we will do what’s right and be compassionate as possible and respond to those requests.”
Murphy is currently in a paraplegic state in Sligo General Hospital and is unable to speak after she contracted PML in 2009, having been using Tysabri since about 2006. She's the only known Tysabri user in Ireland or the U.K. to have contracted the disease.
PML is a known, but very rare potential risk factor associated with Tysabri. Only 124 PML cases have so far been identified among Tysabri users, while 23 of those patients have died.
Walsh's wife is a pharmacologist and at one time she worked as a product manager with drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, the company where Ingram was once vice-chairman of pharmaceuticals.
Walsh, while welcoming Elan's assurances, said that the company had failed to effectively engage with him last year when he first raised the issue of his wife's condition, which he estimates results in medical costs of about €600,000 per annum for the health service.
"There was absolutely zero interaction between Elan and ourselves. The only interaction was when she was initially diagnosed," said Walsh.
"I had to come here to try and make a point. My beautiful wife is dying. From the outset, I've made it quite clear I'm not interested in any legal suit."