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Working with self‐harm: accounts of two staff groups

Rebecca Fish (Research Assistant at Calderstones NHS Trust, Whalley, UK)
Helen Reid (Clinical Coordinator in Forensic Services – Learning Disability, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Morpeth, UK)

Journal of Learning Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2042-0927

Article publication date: 10 October 2011




This study seeks to explore the content analysis of two qualitative studies looking at experiences of staff working with clients who self‐harm. One of the groups work with women clients, and the other works with men. Both groups of staff in this study work with people with mild learning disabilities who self‐harm. The sample is taken from nurses working in both medium security and low security in the UK.


The staff were interviewed using semi‐structured interviews and had considerable control over the direction of the interview.


Although some allowances should be made because the two groups worked in different services, there were some interesting variations in the themes of the results. The two groups of staff based their discussions on five central themes: types of self‐harm, perceived reasons for self‐harm, staff personal responses, client treatment options, and staff support.

Practical implications

Staff reported experiencing strong emotional responses to incidents of self‐harm. Types of behaviour tended to vary between men and women. Staff asked for more training and time for support groups to meet. Some staff (particularly those working with women) think that self‐harm should be allowed within reason.


This research will be valuable to many types of residential service where clients may use self‐harm as a coping strategy. The authors recommend services adopting a harm minimisation approach to self‐harm.



Fish, R. and Reid, H. (2011), "Working with self‐harm: accounts of two staff groups", Journal of Learning Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 152-158.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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