Extreme challenges: psychiatric inpatients with severe self-harming behavior in Norway: a national screening investigation [2018]

Background: Extreme self-harming behavior is a major challenge for patients and health services. Nevertheless, this patient population is poorly described in research literature.

Aims: The aim of this study was to assess the volume of patients with extensive psychiatric hospitalization due to extreme self-harming behaviors, the extent of severe medical sequelae, and collaboration problems within health services.

Methods: In a national screening investigation, department managers in 83 adult psychiatric inpatient institutions across all health regions in Norway were invited to participate in a brief, prepared, telephone interview.

Results: Sixty-one interviews were completed. Extensive hospitalization (prolonged or multiple) due to extreme self-harm was reported for the last year in all health regions and in 427 individual cases. Mean number of cases did not differ by region. Psychiatric hospitalizations were more frequent in hospital units than mental health centers. In 109 of the cases, self-harming behavior had severe medical consequences, including five deaths. In 122 of the cases, substantial collaboration problems within the health services were reported (disagreements on diagnosis, treatment needs and resources). Extensive (long-term) hospitalization was particularly associated with the combination of severe medical sequelae and collaboration problems.

Conclusion: This investigation confirms a noteworthy, nationwide, population of severely self-harming inpatients with extensive health service use, prevalent severe medical complications, and unsatisfactory collaboration within health services. These preliminary results are alarming, and indicate a need for more profound understanding of highly complex and severe cases.

Fredrik Holth, Fredrik Walby, Thea Røstbakken, Ingeborg Lunde, Petter Andreas Ringen, Ruth Kari Ramleth, Kristin Lie Romm, Tone Tveit, Terje Torgersen, Øyvind Urnes & Elfrida Hartveit Kvarstein

Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 23 Oct 2018