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Hurting No-One Else’s Body but Your Own: People with Intellectual Disability Who Self Injure in a Forensic Service


  • Funding source
    NHS Executive North West.


Background  This paper details the experiences of nine people with mild/moderate intellectual disability who self injure; looking beyond the clinical presentations in an attempt to capture the perceptions these people have of their care in a medium secure unit.

Methods  A phenomenological approach was used, and during in-depth interviews, the participants gave rich descriptions of their experiences of self-injury.

Results  The analysis of the interviews revealed four main themes; coping strategies, staff and the organizational response – therapeutic communication, close observation and looking to the future. As a coping strategy, self-injury was seen as an effective means of reducing distress – there were unique and common reasons for this distress. Common themes relating to the actions and reactions of health professionals and the organizational response were evident within all accounts.

Conclusions  The theoretical and clinical implications for service users are discussed.