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Effectiveness, acceptability and potential harms of peer support for self-harm in non-clinical settings: systematic review

Abou Seif, N; John-Baptiste Bastien, R; Wang, B; Davies, J; Isaken, M; Ball, E; Pitman, A; (2022) Effectiveness, acceptability and potential harms of peer support for self-harm in non-clinical settings: systematic review. BJPsych Open , 8 (1) , Article e28. 10.1192/bjo.2021.1081. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Many people who have self-harmed prefer informal sources of support or support from those with lived experience. However, little is known about whether peer support improves outcomes for people who have self-harmed or about the risks of peer support interventions in non-clinical settings. AIMS: The aims of this review were to examine the effectiveness, acceptability and potential risks of peer support for self-harm, and how these risks might be mitigated. METHOD: We searched bibliographic databases and grey literature for papers published since 2000. We included peer support for self-harm that occurred in voluntary-sector organisations providing one-to-one or group support, or via moderated online peer support forums. RESULTS: Eight of the ten papers included focused on peer support that was delivered through online media. No study compared peer support with other treatments or a control group, so limited conclusions could be made about its effectiveness. Peer support for self-harm was found to be acceptable and was viewed as having a range of benefits including a sense of community, empowerment, and access to information and support. The most commonly perceived risk associated with peer support was the potential for triggering self-harm. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings highlighted a range of benefits of being part of a group with very specific shared experiences. Mitigations for potential risks include organisations using professional facilitators for groups, trigger warnings for online forums, and providing regular supervision and training so that peers are prepared and feel confident to support vulnerable people while maintaining their own emotional health.

Type: Article
Title: Effectiveness, acceptability and potential harms of peer support for self-harm in non-clinical settings: systematic review
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1192/bjo.2021.1081
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1192/bjo.2021.1081
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (https://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: literature review, online forums, peer support, self-harm, self-injury
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/10142179
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