Self-harm: what's the problem? A literature review of the factors affecting attitudes towards self-harm

J McHale, A Felton
Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 2010, 17 (8): 732-40
People who have experienced self-harm report dissatisfaction with the care provided by statutory services. This review provides a critical exploration of the evidence examining the attitudes of healthcare professionals across both mental health and medical settings towards people who self-harm. It also explored in detail service users perceptions of care. A literature search conducted via electronic databases and cross-matching reference lists produced 19 papers that met the inclusion criteria. A thematic analysis of the literature indicated six key areas which contributed to the development of attitudes defined as positive or negative towards people who self-harm. Negative attitudes and experiences of care were associated with lack of education and training, the impact of differences in perceptions of health professionals' role and the influence of clinical culture as well as how self-harm was perceived as a health need. More positive attitudes were associated with a greater understanding of experiences of self-harm and improved training. However, the nature of care reported by service users indicates that there are still significant improvements needed to the attitudes in health settings to ensure they receive a high-quality service.


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