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Young Peoples’ Perspectives on the Role of Harm Reduction Techniques in the Management of Their Self-Harm: A Qualitative Study

Davies, J; Pitman, A; Bamber, V; Billings, J; Rowe, S; (2020) Young Peoples’ Perspectives on the Role of Harm Reduction Techniques in the Management of Their Self-Harm: A Qualitative Study. Archives of Suicide Research 10.1080/13811118.2020.1823916. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Objective: Self-harm is a common phenomenon amongst young people, often used to regulate emotional distress. Over the last decade harm reduction approaches to self-harm have been introduced as a means to minimize risk and reinforce alternative coping strategies. However, there is a stark absence of research into the perceived usefulness of such techniques amongst adolescents, and previous studies have highlighted ethical concerns about advocating ‘safer’ forms of self-harm. This study aimed to investigate the perceived usefulness of harm reduction techniques for adolescents who self-harm. Method: We purposively recruited current clients of a British early intervention program supporting young people in managing self-harm. We conducted semi-structured interviews and analyzed transcripts using thematic analysis. Results: Eleven interviews with service users aged 14–15 years identified three main themes: (1) Controlling the uncontrollable; (2) Barriers to practising safer self-harm; and (3) Developing a broad repertoire of harm reduction techniques. Participants expressed mixed views regarding the usefulness of such approaches. Some described greater competence and empowerment in self-harm management, whilst others described the utility of harm reduction methods as either short-lived or situation-specific, with the potential for misuse of anatomical knowledge to cause further harm to high-risk adolescents. Conclusion: The findings from our sample suggest harm reduction techniques have a place in self-harm management for some individuals, but their usage should be monitored and offered alongside alternative strategies and therapeutic support. Our study highlights the need for further research on who would benefit from these techniques and how they can be implemented successfully.HIGHLIGHTS Harm reduction can help people who self–harm manage distress and maintain autonomy People who self-harm have a broad repertoire of harm reduction techniques Harm reduction can help reduce long-term damage and frequency of self-harm.

Type: Article
Title: Young Peoples’ Perspectives on the Role of Harm Reduction Techniques in the Management of Their Self-Harm: A Qualitative Study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/13811118.2020.1823916
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/13811118.2020.1823916
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10113250
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