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Australian and New Zealand clinical practice guidelines for the management of adult deliberate self-harm


  • CPG Team for Deliberate Self-harm, Department of Psychiatry, Westmead Hospital, PO Box 533, Wentworthville New South Wales 2145, Australia. Email:

Philip Boyce, Chair (Correspondence)


Background:  The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is co-ordinating the development of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) in psychiatry, funded under the National Mental Health Strategy (Australia) and the New Zealand Health Funding Authority.

Method:  For these guidelines, the CPG Team for Deliberate Self-harm reviewed the treatment outcome literature (including meta-analyses) and consulted with practitioners and patients.

Treatment recommendations:  (i) Organization of general hospital services to provide: emergency department admission; a safe environment; integrated medical and psychiatric management; risk assessment; identification of psychiatric morbidity, and adequate follow-up. (ii) Detection and treatment of any psychiatric disorder. (iii) Dialectical behaviour therapy, psychoanalytically orientated partial hospitalization or home-based interpersonal therapy (for certain patients) to reduce repetition of deliberate self-harm (DSH).

Conclusion:  Deliberate self-harm is common and is costly in terms of both individual distress and service provision. General hospitals are often the first point of clinical contact, but may not be appropriately organized to care for these patients. Evidence for the effectiveness of psychological treatments is based on single RCTs without replication. The three recommended psychological treatments are not widely available in Australia and New Zealand, and the interventions that are, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, problem solving and ‘green cards’ (an agreement guaranteeing access to services), do not reduce repetition of DSH. The effect of follow-up in psychiatric hospitals or in the community is poorly understood. We need to develop and evaluate interventions that will reduce repetition of both fatal and non-fatal deliberate self-harm and improve the person's functioning and quality of life.