Project Summary

Psychotropic medicines are highly prevalent medicines used predominantly to treat mental illness. They have various effects on the brain, some stimulatory and some inhibitory. Psychotropic medicines can be highly toxic in overdose and are commonly used in deliberate self-poisoning. However, uncertainty persists whether psychotropic medicines including antidepressants and benzodiazepines may increase the risk of suicidal behaviour. 

Currently, there is very limited information on the patterns of timing from prescribed psychotropic initiation to suicidal behaviour. We will investigate patterns of use of different types of psychotropic medicines in terms of their timing preceding deliberate self-poisoning by establishing a link between consultation and prescription history and deliberate self-poisoning. Our study will be informed by pharmacology of psychotropic medicines to examine within-class differences based on sedation, stimulation, impulsivity, and duration of action.  

This project aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the timing of deliberate self-poisoning following initiation of psychotropic prescribing. Furthermore, the results from this project will form a basis for future investigation into association between psychotropic treatment patterns and increased risk of self-harm. This will allow targeted interventions for selected medications.  

Project Date

June 2022 - Dec 2025


Project Lead


Prof Nicholas Buckley - University of Sydney

Dr Rose Cairns - University of Sydney

Dr Jacques Raubenheimer - University of Sydney

Dr Juliana de Oliveira Costa - UNSW Sydney

Dr Jonathan Brett - UNSW Sydney

A/Prof Helga Zoega - UNSW Sydney

Research Question

Does time from initiation of medicine use to deliberate self-poisoning differ by types of psychotropics?  

Data Sources

  • NSW Poisons Information Centre (NSW-PIC)
  • CHeReL Master Linkage Key (MLK)
  • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
  • Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS)

Policy Implications

This project can potentially inform prescribing practices and be embedded in NSW Real Time Prescription Monitoring system e.g., alerts when risky psychotropics are prescribed/dispensed; prescribing guidelines to guide medicine choice in people at risk of self-harm.  

End Users

  • People prescribed psychotropic medicines and their families
  • Clinicians
  • NSW Health (Real-time prescription monitoring)
  • Suicide Prevention Australia
  • the TGA.  


Stay tuned

This section will be updated throughout the project. Please return in the future to see the impact from this project.