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The PARALLEL Study (imPAct of expeRiencing Another’s seLf harm and suicidaL bEhaviour in hospitaL)

Hargate, R and Howden, S and Tarpey, E and Walker, T (2017) The PARALLEL Study (imPAct of expeRiencing Another’s seLf harm and suicidaL bEhaviour in hospitaL). Journal of Forensic Practice, 19 (4). pp. 258-268. ISSN 2050-8794

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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the experiences of both staff and patients in a medium-secure mental health unit of the self-harm and/or suicidal behaviour of others. Suicide and self-harm is highly prevalent in forensic settings and evidence suggests that experiencing other people’s self-harm and suicidal behaviour can lead to negative outcomes, both for staff and patients. This is particularly important in hospitals where patients are highly dependent on staff for support. Design/methodology/approach – Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five staff members and six patients in a medium-secure male mental health unit in the North of England. Data were analysed following interpretative phenomenological analysis guidelines. Findings – Three dominant themes were identified during analysis: the impact of suicide and self-harm; the role of others; and the importance of understanding and experience. Various impacts were discussed including desensitization, negative emotions and the desire to help. Other people played an important role in protecting against negative impacts, with shared experiences and peer support reported as the biggest benefits. Experiences of self-harm and suicide were found to increase understanding resulting in more positive attitudes. Additionally, the importance of training and education was highlighted. Originality/value – This paper provides an insight into the experiences of staff and patients in medium-secure male mental health unit, which has benefits to practitioners when considering support mechanisms.

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