Needs and fears of young people presenting at Accident & Emergency department following an act of self-harm: Secondary analysis of qualitative data
British Journal of Psychiatry
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Reason for embargo
Background: Presentation at an Accident and Emergency (A&E) department is a key opportunity to engage with a young person who self-harms. The needs of this vulnerable group and their fears about presenting to healthcare services, including A&E, are poorly understood. Aims: To examine young people’s perceptions of A&E treatment following self-harm and their views on what constitutes a positive clinical encounter. Method: Secondary analysis of qualitative data from an experimental online discussion forum. Threads selected for secondary analysis represent the views of 31 young people aged 16-25 with experience of self-harm. Results: Participants reported avoiding A&E whenever possible, based on their own and others’ previous poor experiences. When forced to seek emergency care, they did so with feelings of shame and unworthiness. These feelings were reinforced when they received what they perceived as punitive treatment from A&E staff, perpetuating a cycle of shame, avoidance and further self-harm. Positive encounters were those in which they received ‘treatment as usual’, i.e. non-discriminatory care, delivered with kindness, which had the potential to challenge negative self-evaluation and break the cycle. Conclusions: The clinical needs of young people who self-harm continue to demand urgent attention. Further hypothesis testing and trials of different models of care delivery for this vulnerable group are warranted.
National Institute for Health Research
Thanks must again be given to all the primary study participants, who gave so much time and energy and allowed us access to their private worlds. We also acknowledge the other members of the primary study team. C.O. and S.S. were supported for part of the time spent on this paper by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) CLAHRC for the South West Peninsula. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the Royal College of Psychiatrists via the DOI in this record.
Published online October 8, 2015