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J R Soc Promot Health. 2005 Mar;125(2):71-5.

Supporting young people who repeatedly self-harm.

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  • 1Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 27-28 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AA, England.


This paper explores the views and experiences of a group of 74 young people aged 16-22 who were interviewed following presentation in accident and emergency (A&E) departments after intentionally harming themselves. It focuses on a sub-group of 38 young people with a history of self-harm behaviour that extended from when they were under the age of 16, one-third of whom had been or were currently in care. Whilst some had kept their self-harming hidden and had not received any professional intervention until they reached adulthood, others had been in touch with services, although their treatment had not prevented them from continuing to self-harm. Medication was perceived as 'fobbing off', particularly when unaccompanied by other treatments. The young people described their encounters with counsellors and clinicians, some of whom they perceived not to understand or to listen to their perspective. Whilst not representative of all young people who self-harm, these views are important and deserve attention if interventions for children and adolescents are to prevent repetition of self-harm.

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