Year: 2018 Source: New Zealand Journal of Pschology. (2017). 46(3), 106-114. SIEC No: 20180360

Deliberate self-harm (DSH) has been conceptualised as indicative of mental illness, on a continuum ending with
suicide. Recently our understanding of DSH has become more nuanced, with distinctions made between suicidal
behaviour and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Indeed, there is some evidence that NSSI may be consciously countersuicidal.
Moreover, NSSI appears to have recently increased markedly among young women. This research explores
the motivations, meanings and functions of NSSI in young New Zealand women through 19 in-depth interviews.
The results show that precursors range from serious anguish including suicidality, to purely social, with functions
from the alleviation of distress to participation in a social activity. Often minimal physical or psychological harm
is involved, either preceding NSSI, or as a result. Previous beliefs about the dynamics and the social contexts in
which NSSI occurs are thus problematic, as are assumptions about the appropriate support. Though a potential
indicator of mental ill-health, NSSI may be a harm-reduction technique, or a relatively normalised teenage activity
within the peer group.