Self-harm: from risk management to relational and recovery-oriented care
The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice
Article publication date: 8 January 2018
The purpose of this paper is to examine the discourses that shape nurses’ understanding of self-harm and explore strategies for working with people who self-harm in a relational and a recovery-oriented manner.
Self-harm is a relatively common experience for a cohort of people who present to the mental health services and is, therefore, a phenomenon that mental health nurses will be familiar with. Traditionally, however, mental health nurses’ responses to people who self-harm have been largely framed by a risk adverse and biomedical discourse which positions self-harm as a “symptom” of a diagnosed mental illness, most often borderline personality disorder.
This has led to the development of largely unhelpful strategies to eliminate self-harm, often in the absence of real therapeutic engagement, which can have negative outcomes for the person. Attitudes towards those who self-harm amongst mental health nurses can also be problematic, particularly when those who hurt themselves are perceived to be attention seeking and beyond help. This, in turn, has a negative impact on treatment outcomes and future help-seeking intentions.
Despite some deficiencies in how mental health nurses respond to people who self-harm, it is widely recognised that they have an important role to play in self-harm prevention reduction and harm minimisation.
By moving the focus of practice away from the traditional concept of “risk” towards co-constructed collaborative safety planning, mental health nurses can respond in a more embodied individualised and sensitive manner to those who self-harm.
This paper adds further knowledge and understanding to assist nurses’ understanding and working with people who self-harm in a relational and a recovery-oriented manner.
Morrissey, J., Doyle, L. and Higgins, A. (2018), "Self-harm: from risk management to relational and recovery-oriented care", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 34-43. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMHTEP-03-2017-0017
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