Lessons Learnt From the Narratives of Women Who Self-Harm in Prison

Jonathan Gibb, Tammi Walker*, Clive Turpin, Catherine Reid, Kerry Gutridge, Kathryn Abel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Abstract.Background: In England and Wales, women in prison make up a minority (<5%) of the total custodial population, yet acts of self-harm are around five times more common among incarcerated women. While there has been a multiagency effort to improve how acts of self-harm are documented across prisons, the patterns and functions of self-harm for women in prison have not yet been fully addressed. Aims: We aimed to determine the patterns, prevalence, and functions of self-harm among women in prison through a mixed-methods study. Method: A total of 108 women with a history of self-harm were interviewed across three female prisons. Participants completed a structured questionnaire detailing their experiences of self-harm across prison and community settings. Results: We found that women in prison who frequently self-harmed disclosed high levels of trauma: past experiences of domestic violence (81.5%), childhood sexual abuse (66.7%), and adult sexual abuse (60.2%). Prevalent methods of recent in-prison acts of self-harm involved cutting, followed by ligaturing. Limitations: The study used a cross-sectional design, self-reported data, and featured a subset of women identified as being at high-risk of self-harm. Conclusion: Motivations behind acts of self-harm by women in prison are complex. Triggers appear to be past trauma, deteriorating mental health, and separation from children or family.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCrisis
Volume42
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2020

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Lessons Learnt From the Narratives of Women Who Self-Harm in Prison'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this