Health Professionals Have Little Training in Self Harm


In a research review carried out by mental health specialists from the University of Nottingham, UK, researchers have discovered that most professionals have little training in self harm. Sadly researchers found that the lack of professional education and awareness on self-harm was the main cause of negative attitudes.

Staff nurse Jo McHale and lecturer Anne Felton studied 19 papers from the UK, Australia, Sweden and Ireland to gather the information.

Negative experiences sometimes lead to self-harm

“Research has historically shown that people who have self-harmed often have negative experiences because of the attitudes of the healthcare professionals employed to help them" says said Jo McHale."Our study showed that, on the whole little has changed. But there were a number of encouraging studies that highlighted how better education and clinical supervision can improve attitudes, especially when it is supported by government guidance."


Research found that there wasn’t any kind of support and this lack of often left nurses feeling that they were failing in their duty of care towards patients who self-harmed.

"The gap between what health professionals saw as their role and what they were expected to do in practice also influenced negative attitudes" says McHale. "For example, some felt it was wrong to remove client's property and that leaving them in nightwear to stop them self-harming contravened their rights. The people who self-harmed also had more challenging needs than medical patients on wards and were subject to different rules.”

Negative attitudes were also linked to the health professionals' perceptions of the client's ability to control their self harm. They noted that staff was more negative if they felt that the factors leading to the self-harm were within the client's control.

This attitude and judgment by medical staff affects the care of the person who self injured however, harsh judgment by undertrained medical professionals dissipated and attitudes were mainly positive when staff were giving some training and basic knowledge about self harm and training.

The research offers a clear indication that nurses and medical professionals should receive more training in self-harm so they can work with helping those who self harm.