How people who self-harm negotiate the inpatient environment: the mental healthcare workers perspective

2017-07-28T13:09:59Z (GMT) by J.B. Thomas Cheryl Haslam
Introduction Literature describes self-harm as functional and meaningful. This creates difficulties for service-users detained in an inpatient environment where self-harm is prevented. Aim Mental healthcare staff were interviewed to build on existing evidence of issues with the prevention approach and explore, from a staff perspective, how self-harm prevention impacts on service-users, how they manage distress and how this impacts on staff and their approach to care. Methods Qualitative methods were used to allow unexpected themes to arise. Ten semi-structured interviews were carried out with mental healthcare staff and thematically analysed. Findings and discussion The findings provide new evidence on the benefits and limitations of the inpatient environment for individuals who self-harm. Findings indicate that being unable to self-harm can lead to a continuation of distress and subsequent potentially harmful attempts to manage distress. Staff described experiencing a struggle for control in preventing self-harm, leading to increasingly harmful methods of self-harm. Alternatively some staff were able to support service-users with distress management. We discuss factors influencing which of these ‘paths’ service-users followed. Implications Considerations for care planning including understanding self-harm, using individualized care planning and attending to barriers are outlined with the ultimate aim of reducing distress and the impact of prevention of self-harm.