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Article
Publication date: 14 March 2016

Hans Wolff, Alejandra Casillas, Thomas Perneger, Patrick Heller, Diane Golay, Elisabeth Mouton, Patrick Bodenmann and Laurent Getaz

Prison institutional conditions affect risk for self-harm among detainees. In particular, prison overcrowding may increase the likelihood of self-harm by creating…

Abstract

Purpose

Prison institutional conditions affect risk for self-harm among detainees. In particular, prison overcrowding may increase the likelihood of self-harm by creating competition for resources, space, and enhancing a “deprivation state.” The purpose of this paper is to examine the association between overcrowding and prisoner acts of self-harm.

Design/methodology/approach

This cross-sectional study took place at Geneva’s pre-trial prison (capacity:376) between 2006 and 2014. Outcomes were acts of self-harm that required medical attention, and self-strangulation/hanging events (combined into one group, as these are difficult to differentiate). Dichotomous predictors were overcrowding index- annual mean daily population divided by capacity ( > 200 percent vs < 200 percent), and year group (2006-2009 vs 2011-2014).

Findings

Self-harm and self-strangulations/hangings increased in 2011-2014 compared to 2006-2010 (p < 0.001). Overcrowding in excess of 200 percent was associated with self-strangulation/hangings (p < 0.001) but not with all self-harm events. In terms of pertinent demographics that would affect self-harm, there was no prison change in gender, area of origin, foreign residency, religion, or psychiatric treatment.

Research limitations/implications

The present study is limited by the definition and identification of self-harm. The distinction between self-strangulation and self-hanging, and the precise classification of an intent to die is difficult to make in practice, especially with limited prison data records available. The relevant literature addresses the complexity of the association between non-suicidal and suicidal behavior. Despite this, the combined category self-strangulations/hangings gives some indication of severe self-harm events, especially since the methodology of categorization employed was consistent throughout the entire period of the study. Other limitations include the small sample size and the lack of individual patient data and prison data to help control for confounding factors. Despite these drawbacks, pertinent data (socio-demographics and number of prisoners treated for mental health and drug abuse) remained stable over the years. Thus, there are no apparent changes in the inmate population that could be linked to an increase in self-harm. High-security placements and mean prisoner stay have increased over time, with a decrease in staff to prisoner ratio – and these must be looked into further as contributors. Additionally, qualitative methods such as semi-structured interviews and focus groups could delineate the impact of overcrowding on prisoner well-being and self-harm potential.

Practical implications

The authors observed a significant increase in self-harm and self-strangulation/hangings over time, and overcrowding was significantly associated with self-strangulation/hangings (but not with all self-harm events). Overcrowding can impose destructive effects on the psychological and behavioral well being of inmates in prison, influencing a myriad of emotional and livelihood factors that predispose to harmful behavior.

Originality/value

This report should alert public health and prison authorities to this issue, and garner resources to address such an alarming rise. The findings from this short report demonstrate the need for a further examination of the mechanisms affecting self-harm among prisoners in this population, particularly the relationship between self-strangulations/hangings and overcrowding.

Details

International Journal of Prisoner Health, vol. 12 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1744-9200

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 1 May 2005

Karen Gough

Previous research has established that guidelines to facilitate a non‐judgemental, consistent approach to self‐harm management would be useful to staff working in a…

Abstract

Previous research has established that guidelines to facilitate a non‐judgemental, consistent approach to self‐harm management would be useful to staff working in a forensic psychiatric setting. In the preparation of these guidelines, a literature search was conducted to examine the evidence on clinical effectiveness for managing self‐harm. Overall, the evidence for defining a definitive treatment approach to self‐harm is extremely limited. However, a number of studies/reviews have identified aspects of treatment and care that are considered to be effective. Guidelines have been produced that capitalise on this information and provide front‐line staff (such as nurses) with advice that can be used on a daily basis when working with a service user who self‐harms.

Details

The British Journal of Forensic Practice, vol. 7 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6646

Article
Publication date: 1 December 2000

Karen Gough and Andrew Hawkins

Identified risk factors and clinical experience suggest that self‐harm is a common and very significant problem in forensic psychiatric settings. Sparse training on…

316

Abstract

Identified risk factors and clinical experience suggest that self‐harm is a common and very significant problem in forensic psychiatric settings. Sparse training on self‐harm given to staff throughout professional development is a concern for staff who can be left feeling dissatisfied and powerless as how to manage the patient who self‐harms. Consequently, staff often have to rely on idiosyncratic beliefs about self‐harm and its management to guide their practice. This survey investigated staff attitudes towards self‐harm in a forensic psychiatric service. The results highlight much variation in attitudes and a sub‐population of staff holding relatively more punitive/negative beliefs. In addition, the survey drew attention to the difficulty of managing self‐harm in forensic settings‐especially in relation to issues around facilitating safe self‐harm.

Details

The British Journal of Forensic Practice, vol. 2 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6646

Article
Publication date: 28 November 2022

Christie Browne, Prabin Chemjong, Daria Korobanova, Seyoung Jang, Natalia Yee, Carey Marr, Natasha Rae, Trevor Ma, Sarah-Jane Spencer and Kimberlie Dean

Rates of self-harm are elevated in prison, and there is limited evidence to support the efficacy of brief risk screening at reception to predict and prevent self-harm

Abstract

Purpose

Rates of self-harm are elevated in prison, and there is limited evidence to support the efficacy of brief risk screening at reception to predict and prevent self-harm. This study aims to examine the predictive validity of the self-harm/suicide screening items embedded in a prison mental health screening tool from two key domains strongly associated with risk: previous suicidal/self-harm behaviour, and recent ideation.

Design/methodology/approach

A sample of men and women were screened on entry to prison, with eight screening items covering the two key domains of risk. Follow-up data on self-harm incidents were collected for 12 months post-screening. The predictive validity of individual screening items, item combinations and cumulative screening score was examined for the overall sample and for men and women separately.

Findings

Individual screening items across the two domains were all strongly associated with self-harm in the follow-up period, with odds ratios varying from 2.34 to 9.24. The predictive validity of both individual items, item scores and item combinations demonstrated high specificity but low to moderate sensitivity, and modest area under the curves (AUCs). Predictive validity was generally better for men than women; however, differences were not statistically significant.

Practical implications

Identifying those at risk of self-harm in prisons remains challenging and brief universal screening at prison entry should be only one component of a broader prison risk assessment and management strategy.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is one of very few to prospectively examine self-harm behaviour following risk screening. Predictive validity was examined in a representative sample of individuals in custody, and for men and women separately.

Details

International Journal of Prisoner Health, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1744-9200

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 5 January 2022

Molly Cross and Tim Clarke

In response to elevated local self-harm and suicide rates, and the lack of a dedicated pathway for children and young people (CYP) who self-harm, a rapid response pathway…

Abstract

Purpose

In response to elevated local self-harm and suicide rates, and the lack of a dedicated pathway for children and young people (CYP) who self-harm, a rapid response pathway united to reduce self-harm (RUSH) was developed and implemented within Norwich (Norfolk, England). This public health case study aims to describe the pathway model and share its outcomes, learnings, and reflections over the pilot year.

Design/methodology/approach

RUSH was a community-based pilot pathway aiming to support CYP, 11–18 years old, engaging in or at risk of engaging in repeated self-harm and subsequently at risk of repeated attendance at local emergency departments. From May 2020 to April 2021, RUSH supported 61 CYP using funding from NHS England and Improvement.

Findings

This case study shares the pathway’s outcomes, through a mixed-method evaluation. Results indicate statistically significant reductions in self-harm frequency (p = 0.01) and anxiety and depression symptomatology (p < 0.001); a statistically significant increase in progress towards goals (p < 0.001); and a general downward trend in re-attendance at local emergency departments following RUSH. Findings also illustrate high service user satisfaction. Framework analysis of focus group data highlights positive experiences with hope for recommissioning from a staff perspective.

Originality/value

This study will be valuable for services looking to develop and implement a similar service provision, in response to the need to tackle self-harm rates as a broader approach to suicide prevention. In light of the NHS long-term plan (2019), it also serves as an example of how to develop and use a strategic co-production group, and work collaboratively with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors.

Details

Journal of Public Mental Health, vol. 21 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5729

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 12 July 2021

Melanie Boyce

Self-harm can affect people of all ages, yet the high prevalence rate in adolescents and the potential risk factor of suicide in adults 60 years and above has meant…

Abstract

Purpose

Self-harm can affect people of all ages, yet the high prevalence rate in adolescents and the potential risk factor of suicide in adults 60 years and above has meant research has tended to focus within these areas. Therefore, the purpose of this exploratory study is to examine the experiences of self-harm in people from early adulthood to late middle age to gain greater insight and understanding in this underexplored area.

Design/methodology/approach

An online open-ended survey was used to collect the data from a UK user-led moderated online forum that supports people who self-harm.

Findings

Thematic data analysis indicates that feelings of shame and guilt were intensified, due to the double stigma participants face as adults that self-harm. Although most participants had seen a reduction in the frequency of their self-harm many experienced an increase in the severity of harm. In not fitting the assumed typical profile of someone that self-harm participants often struggled to gain formal support.

Research limitations/implications

This was a small-scale online survey; hence, it is not possible to generalise the findings to all adults who self-harm.

Practical implications

The findings from this research provide evidence that greater recognition needs to be given to the reality that self-harm can affect people of all ages. As a result, access to support needs to be widened as a means of supporting those who do not fit the typical profile of someone who self-harms.

Originality/value

This exploratory online study provides insights around the tensions and challenges facing adults that self-harm, which remains an under-researched and largely ignored area.

Details

Mental Health Review Journal, vol. 26 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1361-9322

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 14 October 2021

Laura Ramsay, Cheyenne M. May, Priscilla Kennedy and Erin Lucy Fitzakerley

The purpose of this paper is to outline qualitative research into what influences, maintains and reduces prolific self-harm within women’s prisons across England.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to outline qualitative research into what influences, maintains and reduces prolific self-harm within women’s prisons across England.

Design/methodology/approach

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants who were identified as engaging in prolific self-harm. Thematic analysis was applied to two data sets, and analyses were combined to generate final themes.

Findings

Six overarching themes were identified which served to explain what influences the repetitive nature of prolific self-harm and also what helps to reduce it. The themes were reasons for self-harm, trauma, being in prison, support, other support and interventions: management and rehabilitative.

Research limitations/implications

Owing to the sensitive nature of the research a stringent exclusion criteria was applied which limited the data sample from the original pool. Variance in detail was observed from the interviewer transcripts. The data sample was not large enough to examine the influence of protected characteristics.

Practical implications

Responsivity in the support offered by staff is critical to a reduction in repetitive harm. A re-focus on staff training, plus support mechanisms for staff supporting people in women’s prisons who self-harm prolifically has been recommended.

Originality/value

This paper has focussed specifically on prolific self-harm within women’s prisons. This has not been an area that has been investigated separately to the general self-harm literature in prisons. This paper provides insight into factors which influence, maintain and reduce prolific-self harm in women residing in prison.

Details

The Journal of Forensic Practice, vol. 23 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2050-8794

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 6 August 2021

Alexander Challinor, Kathryn Naylor and Patrick Verstreken

Self-harm, including death from suicide, remains a significant public health challenge. The prison population is known to be a high-risk group for self-harm and suicide…

Abstract

Purpose

Self-harm, including death from suicide, remains a significant public health challenge. The prison population is known to be a high-risk group for self-harm and suicide. The purpose of this study is to explore the trends in the frequency of self-harm over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic within a high-secure hospital. The authors hypothesised that the pandemic could adversely affect the mental health of patients, which could increase the rates of self-harm. Reasons for changes in the frequency of self-harm and the strategies used in response to the pandemic were also investigated.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper encompasses findings from a quality improvement project that investigated self-harming behaviours from February 2020 to February 2021 in a high-secure psychiatric hospital. Incidents of self-harm were recorded based on the hospital’s ward structure. Data was collected on the incidence of self-harm rates over the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on how the pandemic may have had an effect on self-harm.

Findings

This paper found an increase in the incidents of self-harm during the initial stages of the pandemic. The first national lockdown period yielded a rise in self-harm incidents from pre-COVID levels. The frequency of self-harm reduced following the first lockdown and returned to pre-COVID levels. The authors explored the psychological effects of COVID, isolation, interpersonal dynamics and changes in the delivery of care as reasons for these trends.

Practical implications

This study demonstrates the substantial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to secure psychiatric services. Having an awareness of how the pandemic can impact on self-harm is important, as it allows the correct balance of restriction of our patients’ liberty to a degree deemed necessary to control the pandemic and the delivery of effective patient care. The key clinical implications include the importance of direct face-to-face patient contact, effective communication, therapeutic interventions and activities, the psychological impact of quarantine and the influence the pandemic can have on an individual’s function of self-harm.

Originality/value

This paper is the first, to the authors’ knowledge, to explore the impact of COVID-19 in a high-security psychiatric hospital. The authors also explore possible explanations for the changes in the trends of self-harm and include the consideration of strategies for improving the prevention and management of self-harm in high-secure settings during a pandemic.

Details

The Journal of Forensic Practice, vol. 23 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2050-8794

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 12 March 2014

Jennifer Jane Barton, Tanya Meade, Steven Cumming and Anthony Samuels

– The purpose of this paper is to examine the predictors of self-harm in male inmates.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the predictors of self-harm in male inmates.

Design/methodology/approach

Male inmates with and without a background of self-harm (i.e. suicidal and non-suicidal) were compared across two distal (static and trait) and two proximal (environmental and current/state psychological) domains. The factors from the four domains which may accurately classify self-harm history were also examined.

Findings

The two groups were significantly different across the four domains, particularly on psychological characteristics. The self-harm group was associated with childhood trauma, violent offences, institutional misconducts and lower levels of social support significantly more than the non-self-harm group. Being single, childhood abuse, impulsivity, antisocial personality disorder and global psychopathology were the five key predictors that contributed to 87.4 per cent of all cases being correctly classified.

Practical implications

The high levels of psychiatric morbidity and childhood trauma in the self-harm group indicated a need for interventions that address emotional and interpersonal difficulties and optimization of adaptive coping skills. Also, interventions may require a focus on the behavioural functions.

Originality/value

A novel approach was taken to the grouping of the variables. A comprehensive range of variables, was assessed simultaneously, including some not previously considered indicators, and in an understudied population, Australian male inmates. The lower levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness and generalized anxiety disorder which distinguished the self-harm and non-self-harm group, were newly identified for self-harm.

Details

Journal of Criminal Psychology, vol. 4 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2009-3829

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 13 July 2015

Kerri Garbutt and Helen Casey

The purpose of this paper is to report on the internal consistency, convergent validity and test-retest reliability of the Attitudes to Prisoners who Self-Harm scale…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report on the internal consistency, convergent validity and test-retest reliability of the Attitudes to Prisoners who Self-Harm scale (APSH). The latter have yet to be examined.

Design/methodology/approach

Participants were prison staff with prisoner contact (N=97). Internal consistency of the APSH was examined using Cronbach’s α. Convergent validity of the APSH was examined by comparing it to the Self-Harm Antipathy Scale, a reliable and valid measure of healthcare staff attitudes to self-harm. Test-retest reliability was examined by re-administering the APSH one week after initial assessment (n=75).

Findings

The measure demonstrated adequate levels of internal consistency, convergent validity and test-retest reliability.

Originality/value

The findings support use of the APSH within custodial settings. It could be used to guide recruitment and training of prison officers that care for prisoners who self-harm and to evaluate the efficacy of their training. This would influence good practice.

Details

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, vol. 7 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1759-6599

Keywords

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