Seeking secrecy: A qualitative study of younger adolescents’ accounts of self-harm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Young people who self-harm face challenges in seeking help, and there is a lack of qualitative research with under 16s, despite rates of self-harm being high and help-seeking low. 122 young people aged 13-26, 108 of whom were aged 13-16, were involved in multiple-methods of qualitative data collection. This included 6 focus group discussions with 33 young people who had limited experience of self-harm; in-depth interviews with 5 people who had self-harmed; and a qualitative online survey completed by 88 young people who had self-harmed. Analysis was thematic. Participants articulated views which could inhibit help-seeking: young people provided strong negative judgements about ‘attention-seeking’ as a motive for self-harm; while ‘private’ self-harm was valorised. Talking to others about self-harm was identified as beneficial, but it was unclear how possible this would be if self-harm must also be kept ‘secret’. Findings suggest that framing self-harm as private, and secretive may be counter-productive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-331
Issue number4
Early online date6 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • self-harm
  • sociology
  • qualitative
  • youth
  • stigma


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