Year: 2022 Source: Archives of Suicide Research. (2022). 26(2), 692-706. SIEC No: 20220783
Objective Self-harm is a common phenomenon amongst young people, often used to regulate emotional distress. Over the last decade harm reduction approaches to self-harm have been introduced as a means to minimize risk and reinforce alternative coping strategies. However, there is a stark absence of research into the perceived usefulness of such techniques amongst adolescents, and previous studies have highlighted ethical concerns about advocating ‘safer’ forms of self-harm. This study aimed to investigate the perceived usefulness of harm reduction techniques for adolescents who self-harm. Method We purposively recruited current clients of a British early intervention program supporting young people in managing self-harm. We conducted semi-structured interviews and analyzed transcripts using thematic analysis. Results Eleven interviews with service users aged 14–15 years identified three main themes: (1) Controlling the uncontrollable; (2) Barriers to practising safer self-harm; and (3) Developing a broad repertoire of harm reduction techniques. Participants expressed mixed views regarding the usefulness of such approaches. Some described greater competence and empowerment in self-harm management, whilst others described the utility of harm reduction methods as either short-lived or situation-specific, with the potential for misuse of anatomical knowledge to cause further harm to high-risk adolescents. Conclusion The findings from our sample suggest harm reduction techniques have a place in self-harm management for some individuals, but their usage should be monitored and offered alongside alternative strategies and therapeutic support. Our study highlights the need for further research on who would benefit from these techniques and how they can be implemented successfully.