Alcohol and self-harm in Anuradhapura: Preliminary findings of a qualitative study

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Background: Research has shown that alcohol use is associated with self-harm and suicide, which is also the case in Sri Lanka where high numbers of individuals admitted to hospitals after self-harming are under influence of alcohol. Internationally, it has been highlighted that alcohol use may harm the personal network of the drinker and lead to secondary traumatization. This can appear as emotional distress, financial difficulties and lead to domestic violence and in some cases self-harm and suicide. This interplay between alcohol and self-harm was investigated in individuals, families and communities in the Anuradhapura area.

Objectives: The objective of this study was to explore alcohol’s role in cases of self-harm in individuals, families and communities.

Methods: A qualitative, exploratory study, was conducted utilizing: (i) serial, narrative, life-story interviews with 19 individuals (12 men and 7 women between 20-69 years of age) who self-harmed and where alcohol was involved, and with 22 of their relatives; (ii) 10 focus-group discussions with community members; and (iii) observations in villages and alcohol-selling centers.

Results: Only men drank alcohol before self-harm, spanning from heavy, daily drinking to social, occasional and even first time drinking. All women had alcohol indirectly involved in their case of self-harm through the negative effects of a relative’s drinking. Findings indicate that two categories of the alcohol-self-harm complex exist, with different characteristics for men and women: One where alcohol plays a direct role for the self-harm and another where alcohol is one out of several factors intertwined in a web of inter-personal, intra-personal and socio-economic factors. For women, the self-harm seem to be a result of secondary traumatization. The interviewees indicate that they have not or rarely seek assistance to overcome alcohol-related or other problems in their household.

Conclusions and recommendations: Preliminary findings show that alcohol plays a significant role in self-harm – but in different ways. Strategies seeking to prevent alcohol-related self-harm should focus on: alleviating problematic alcohol use when it is the main problem of the individual and family, or targeting the alcohol use as well as the myriad of other complex problems facing them. In doing so, said gender differences should be considered.
Publikationsdato26 mar. 2015
Antal sider1
StatusUdgivet - 26 mar. 2015
BegivenhedAlcohol and Drug Information Centre - Sri Lanka: Research Symposium: Combating alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in national development - Colombo, Sri Lanka
Varighed: 26 mar. 201526 mar. 2015


KonferenceAlcohol and Drug Information Centre - Sri Lanka: Research Symposium
LandSri Lanka


ID: 138269716