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Evaluations of the Quality of Coping Reported by Prisoners Who Have Self-Harmed and Those Who Have Not

Authors

  • Greg E. Dear MPsych (Clin),

    Corresponding author
    1. are with Edith Cowan University.
      We would like to thank Alfred Allan, Craig Speelman, and Ed Helmes for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We also would like to thank the prisoners, prison officers, and psychologists who participated in the study and staff of the Western Australian Ministry of Justice who facilitated the undertaking of this research.
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  • Justine L. Slattery Psych,

    1. are with Edith Cowan University.
      We would like to thank Alfred Allan, Craig Speelman, and Ed Helmes for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We also would like to thank the prisoners, prison officers, and psychologists who participated in the study and staff of the Western Australian Ministry of Justice who facilitated the undertaking of this research.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Roger J. Hillan BPsych

    1. are with Edith Cowan University.
      We would like to thank Alfred Allan, Craig Speelman, and Ed Helmes for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We also would like to thank the prisoners, prison officers, and psychologists who participated in the study and staff of the Western Australian Ministry of Justice who facilitated the undertaking of this research.
    Search for more papers by this author

Address correspondence to Greg Dear, School of Psychology, Edith Cowan University, 100 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Western Australia, Australia, 6027. E-mail: g.dear@cowan.edu.au.

Abstract

Yufit and Bongar (1992) argued that a deficiency in coping skills is an important risk factor for suicidal behavior. Dear, Thomson, Hall, and Howells (1998) found that prisoners who had self-harmed in the past 3 days were less likely than a comparison group to have used problem-solving or active cognitive coping strategies to handle the most significant stressor of the past week, but it was not clear whether this represented a difference in the quality of coping responses used. In this study, three groups of blind raters (prisoners, prison officers, and forensic psychologists) rated the coping responses of the participants in Dear et al.'s study. The coping responses of self-harmers were judged less beneficial and more risky. Problem-solving strategies were most often cited as contributing to beneficial outcomes and the catharsis strategies employed by self-harmers were most often judged to be counterproductive. It remains unclear whether prisoners who self-harmed routinely employ poor quality coping strategies or if they simply used poor quality coping on this occasion.

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