Investigating Factors That Impact on Attitudes Towards Self-Injury Using Quantitative Methods
Background: Self-injury is a serious behaviour undertaken by those in distress. Attitudes to self-injury both with and without intent to end life is often studied in terms of professionals working in Accident and Emergency (A&E), with little attention paid to other professionals or non-professionals. There are several potential aspects to one’s stigmatising attitudes, such as willingness to help individuals, perceived causes for behaviour, optimism for prognosis and general empathy experienced. Moreover, some research suggests stigmatising attitudes may be different depending on the severity of the self-injury, including the presence or absence of suicidal intent. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact on these factors of the form of self-injury and professional background. Methods: Using an online survey methodology 436 respondents completed the survey. The attitudes of Mental Health Professionals, Primary Care Professionals and those not working in either of these settings (“Non-Professionals”) were compared to explore their attitudes towards self-injury. Participants were randomly shown a vignette depicting either self-injury with or without intent to end life and reported their overall empathy, willingness to help, attributions for the behaviour and optimism for prognosis. Results: On all measures Non-Professionals reported more negative attitudes than either healthcare professional group, who had similar attitudes towards self-injury. Both professional groups differed in their attitudes towards self-injury with and without suicidal intent on all measures expect for optimism for prognosis. Across all professional groups a difference was seen between the optimism for personal and others’ intervention. Conclusions: The study outlined the current attitudes of different healthcare professionals and the general public towards self-injury both with and without intent to end life. Differences in attitudes were seen, showing the potential to improve the stigmatising attitudes experienced by those who self-injure; methods were suggested by which to do this. Further research is needed in order to assess the clinical effectiveness of attempts to improve stigmatising attitudes.