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Attitudes and Understanding Regarding Non-suicidal Self-injury among Mental Health Staff Working at CAMHS and Related Agencies in WA

Student Researcher: Melissa Partridge
Supervisor:
Dr Suzanne Dziurawiec
Ethics approval:
2013/062

Self-harm and suicide are serious health concerns facing contemporary society. However, the mainstreaming of mental health into generalist health services has meant that health professionals may be required to treat self-harm, despite having received limited training about it, and whilst potentially harbouring negative attitudes towards the behaviour because of its potential to evoke strong emotional responses. The study reported here developed a 51-item Self-harm Survey to assess whether Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service medical and nursing staff (generalist health professionals) differed from allied health and support service staff in their general knowledge, opinions and understandings, their workplace experiences relating to self-harm, and their attitudes towards the impact social media has on self-harming adolescents. 82 CAMHS participants completed the survey. Results indicated that medical and nursing staff had higher general knowledge than allied health and support service staff, but there were no differences between the groups in their opinions and understandings about self-harm or in their attitudes towards working with self-harm clients. The majority of both groups indicated that social media had a negative impact on adolescents who self-harmed. Overall, the findings provide evidence that current training practices are generally effective, although more than a third of all respondents expressed a desire for more education and training in their work with self-harming clients. The findings suggest that there is a need for ongoing professional development courses regarding self-harm to teach proactive support skills, rather than merely knowledge content.