Barton-Breck, Andy and Heyman, Bob (2012) Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative? The variable value dynamics of non-suicidal self-hurting. Health, Risk & Society, 14 (5). pp. 445-464. ISSN 1369-8575

Medical accounts mostly frame non-suicidal self-hurting as an adverse event, the frequency of which has supposedly increased to a current ‘epidemic’ level, and which can be predicted probabilistically in terms of risk factors. This set of presuppositions gives rise to the common stigmatisation of those who present to Accident and Emergency services as a result of self-hurting. It is now being challenged in a small but growing body of social science literature which emphasises the diversity of self-hurting, and its range of socially situated meanings for those who self-hurt, family and health professionals. The present paper contributes to this research strand by discussing the accounts of their self-hurting given by a sample of 25 UK adults who had not been in contact with health or other services for this reason. The analysis focused on three value issues: the positive gains which motivated research participants to self-hurt; their own active efforts to mitigate associated risks; and the longer-term downsides which some respondents identified.

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