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By Bruce Wallace

ISBN: 978-1-84991-651-6
Published: 2012
Pages: 200
Key Themes: Mental Health, Self-Harm, Injury, Study


Self-harm/injury is something that impinges on the lives of a significant number of people. It has become an issue that now attracts a range of attitudes and assumptions, not all of which are positive.

Despite the vast amount of information that is now available through a range of different sources there is still a limited understanding of what self-harm/injury represents and how people who self-harm/injure should be most effectively supported.

Differences that exist in the acknowledgement of what self-harm/injury is, why people engage in it and how they should be supported include:

• A frequent link in ‘professional’ literature with other concepts such as mental illness, suicide

• Self-injury as different to self-harm or self-harm considered as an ‘umbrella’ term for a range of different activities including self-injury

• Why people self-harm/injure

• Interventions that support individuals including who might be best placed to offer these

In response to some of these issues stories have been requested and submitted by a number of people who have experienced self-harm/injury as part of their life. These are incorporated in the book as a reminder that what takes place in a person’s individual circumstances is unique to them. The concept of unique is critical when it comes to how other people, professionals included, facilitate that person’s needs. It is evidenced within both the literature explored and the stories provided that reasons for self-harm/injury and interventions intended to assist the individual are many and varied and our understanding is still limited.

Listening to the individual who has self-harmed/injured and accepting that what the person does is necessary (in most circumstances) may help us to develop a more collaborative and less judgmental approach and therefore encourage more individuals to access help and support when they require it.

About the Author

Bruce Wallace was born in 1951 and lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and daughter. He originally qualified as a mental health nurse in Northern Ireland in 1971. After a variety of experiences in acute mental health settings he moved into nurse teaching in a variety of areas including Bradford, Wakefield, and Watford before joining the University of Bedfordshire in 1994. He currently manages a part-time mental health degree programme and teaches the acute mental health and suicide and self-harming behaviours modules within this programme. He is keen to support a more collaborative approach within mental health, with a particular interest in the area of self-harm/injury.

Book Extract

Self-harming has become a much more
prominent issue during the last couple of decades. It is
not a new phenomenon and has been an issue for some
considerable time but unfortunately has not been
identified within the public arena. The gradual
emergence of a ‘problem’ associated with a behaviour
where people (more often than not identified as young)
physically harm or injure themselves created an interest
in a range of health, social, educational and voluntary
agencies. This in turn led to the growth of a body of
information and expressed interest in exploring the
subject in terms of whom, what, and why.

A greater awareness on the topic of selfharming/
injuring has led to an extensive range of
research activity and the publication of material in a
wide range of journals, books, reports and other media.
Some of the literature that is now available indicates
that the incidence of self-harm/injury has increased and
that here in the United Kingdom we have some of the
highest incidence rates in Europe. Estimates vary due to
the fact that many people do not tell others that they are
self-harming/injuring, or avoid contact with services due
to some negative experiences that they have personally
encountered or reported by people they know.


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