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Title: "It's a safe space" : the role of self-harm self-help/mutual aid groups
Author: Boyce, Melanie J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5914 8667
Awarding Body: Anglia Ruskin University
Current Institution: Anglia Ruskin University
Date of Award: 2016
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There has been very little research that has explored self-help groups (SHGs) in relation to self-harm. Yet, from the limited research undertaken self-harm SHGs appear to provide a valuable and much needed source of support. This study explores the perspectives of those who attend and support such groups with the aim of building a more comprehensive understanding of the role of these groups. The research is framed within an interpretative paradigm of inquiry and guided by a qualitative case study approach. The first phase involved working with two self-harm SHGs to gain an in-depth understanding of the strengths and challenges specific to these groups. In the second phase, semi-structured interviews were undertaken with four individuals who had experience of supporting self-harm SHGs directly and/or at an organisational level to gain broader insights into the running and development of such groups. A thematic approach to the analysis of the findings illustrated that these groups provide a safe, non-judgmental space where those who self-harm can meet, listen and talk to others who share similar experiences for mutual and reciprocal peer support. Participation in the groups was found to offer direct individual benefits and wider gains, along with external and internal challenges. Despite a current interest in the value of peer support in mental health services, the thesis illustrates that this is largely missing for those who self-harm. Concerns about the risk of peer support for those who self-harm remains a barrier affecting the development of self-harm SHGs, which is further constrained by a privileging of an individualistic approach in mainstream services. The thesis contributes new evidence about the value of collective peer support for those who self-harm. In addition it provides a more nuanced theoretical understanding of the paradoxical meaning of ‘safe space’ in a SHG for those who self-harm.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available