Analysis of accident and emergency doctors' responses to treating people who self-harm

Qual Health Res. 2009 Jun;19(6):755-65. doi: 10.1177/1049732309334473.


Self-harm is a prevalent phenomenon regularly faced by doctors and nurses working in accident and emergency (A&E) departments. We argue that the treatment decisions A&E doctors make are fundamental to decreasing the high risk of suicide among this group. In this article we present a qualitative study exploring how doctors working in A&E respond to treating people who self-harm. In total, five A&E doctors were interviewed and the data were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Three main themes were extracted: treating the body, silencing the self, and mirroring cultural and societal responses to self-harm. Within these themes, we identified both facilitative and unhelpful aspects of the relationships between people who self-harm and A&E doctors. We consider the clinical implications of these findings within the context of A&E doctors having limited opportunities to address the relational nature of the care they offer to this group.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / therapy*