Is self-immolation a distinct method for suicide? A comparison of Iranian patients attempting suicide by self-immolation and by poisoning


Objective: Patients who attempted suicide by self-immolation were compared to patients who attempted suicide by poisoning to identify features that might discriminate risk of self-immolation from other suicide methods.

Methods: Consecutive referrals for attempted suicide were recruited over a 4-month period (June-September 2008) from Kermanshah Imam Khomeini Hospital, Iran. Using questionnaire and interview techniques, demographic characteristics (age, gender, marital status, education level), psychosocial risk factors (prior suicide attempt, family history of suicide attempt, previous history of physical and mental disorders, family/marital conflict), and suicidal intent behavior were assessed from 200 patients who had attempted suicide (n = 63 by self-immolation; n = 137 by poisoning).

Results: Several significant differences between the groups emerged. Patients who had attempted suicide by self-immolation were more frequently female (p < 0.001), older (p < 0.007), less educated (p < 0.001), and married (p < 0.001). Suicidal intent was associated with increased risk of suicide by poisoning (p < 0.001). No other significant differences were found.

Conclusion: In Iran, patients who attempt suicide by self-immolation have distinct and specific risk factors compared to patients who commit suicide by poisoning. Results have implications for intervention development targeting at-risk populations.