Mental Health Nurses' Attitudes Toward Self-Harm: Curricular Implications of a Qualitative Study

Friday, 25 July 2014

Peter Thomas Sandy, RMN, BSc (Hons), PGCertED, PGDipED, MSc, PhD
Azwihangwisi Mavhandu-Mudzusi, PhD, RN, RM
Department of Health Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to examine the attitudes of nurses toward service users who self-harm in secure environments. The educational implications arising from this study form the focus of this paper.

Methods: A qualitative multi-method approach was adopted, underpinned by interpretive phenomenology. The setting was a large secure mental health unit to the west of London in the United Kingdom. Data were obtained from mental health nurses using individual interviews and focus groups.

Results: Nurses vary in their attitudes towards self-harm but mainly hold negative ones, usually related to limited knowledge and skills in this area. The results of the study, informed by the Theory of Planned Behaviour, led to the development of a model entitled Factors Affecting Self-Harming Behaviours (FASH).

 Conclusion: The FASH Model, which captures the results of this study, is intended to inform future curriculum innovation at both under- and post-graduate levels. It is argued that only by adopting a holistic approach to education about self-harm can attitudes and skills be developed to make care provision more effective in secure mental health settings.