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Parasuicide (from Greek παρά, para-, "near" or "resembling" and suicide) is a suicide attempt or gesture and self-harm where there is no result in death. It is a non-fatal act in which a person deliberately causes injury to him or herself or ingests any prescribed or generally recognized therapeutic dose in excess. The term was first coined in Edinburgh by Norman Kreitman.[1] It is considered to be a serious public health issue.

Parasuicide is the strongest known indicator for a future completed suicide.[2] Other researchers also include those in the definition who attempt suicide with the intent to kill themselves. Studies have found that about half of those who complete suicide have a history of parasuicide.[3] Parasuicide is most common in adolescents and young adults.[4]

Suicidal gestures[edit]

Examples of suicidal gestures include cutting, where the cut is not deep enough to cause significant blood loss, or taking a non-lethal overdose of medication. This differs from self-harm where the person's primary intention is to relieve unbearable emotions, sensations of unreality, or feelings of numbness by injuring their body.

Suicidal gestures are typically done to alert others of the seriousness of the individual's depression or suicidal ideation, and are usually treated as actual suicide attempts by hospital staff. Some suicidal gestures do lead to death, despite the individual not having the intention of dying. Studies show that 1% of patients who self-harm will complete suicide within two years of the first act.[5]


Nearly half of all suicides are preceded by an attempt at suicide that does not end in death. Those with a history of such attempts are 23 times more likely to eventually end their own lives than those without.[6]

Those who attempt to harm themselves are, as a group, quite different from those who actually die from suicide; women attempt suicide much more frequently than men do, but men are four times more likely to die from suicide.[7] The incidence of parasuicide ranges from as low as 2.6 to as high as 1,100 per 100,000 people per year. The lifetime incidence of parasuicide has been estimated as low as 720 and as high as 5,930 per 100,000 people. Parasuicide is more likely to occur in younger people and women.

Other risk factors include being single or being divorced, unemployment, recent change in living condition, mental illness, ill health and a history of parasuicide. Substance abuse, especially alcohol, is highly associated with parasuicide.[2] A survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality found a 41% prevalence of suicide attempts among respondents, with the prevalence being higher among certain demographics. For example, 56% of Native American or Alaska Native respondents reported at least one attempt.[8]

One study found that perfectionism could be a factor in parasuicide. A high level of perfectionism was found in patients that had been hospitalized for parasuicide and the study suggests that perfectionism is more likely to lead to feelings of failure, therefore making a suicide attempt or parasuicide more likely.[9]


  1. ^ Kreitman N., Parasuicide. Chichester: Wiley, 1977
  2. ^ a b Welch, SS (Mar 2001). "A review of the literature on the epidemiology of parasuicide in the general population". Psychiatr Serv. 52 (3): 368–75. doi:10.1176/ PMID 11239107. 
  3. ^ Comtois, KA (Sep 2002). "A review of interventions to reduce the prevalence of parasuicide". Psychiatr Serv. 53 (9): 1138–44. doi:10.1176/ PMID 12221313. 
  4. ^ Ung, EK (Jan 2003). "Youth suicide and parasuicide in Singapore". Ann Acad Med Singap. 32 (1): 12–18. PMID 12625092. 
  5. ^ Semple, David. "Oxford handbook of Psychiatry" 2005.
  6. ^ Shaffer, DJ (September 1988). "The Epidemiology of Teen Suicide: An Examination of Risk Factors". Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 49 (supp.): 36–41. PMID 3047106. 
  7. ^ National Center for Health Statistics. Deaths: Injuries, 2002. Retrieved on 21 October 2007.
  8. ^ "Suicide Attempts among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults" (PDF). Retrieved September 2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  9. ^ Rasmussen, S. A.; O'Connor, R. C.; Brodie, D. (2008). "The role of perfectionism and autobiographical memory in a sample of parasuicide patients: an exploratory study". Crisis. 29 (2): 64–72. doi:10.1027/0227-5910.29.2.64. PMID 18664231.