Understanding deliberate self-harm in adult populations: an integrative review

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Brekelmans, Stephanie
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Self-harm is an important issue and is considered a significant public health problem, especially for adolescents (Cottrell, 2013; Mcmahon et al., 2013) and is arguably an important topic for adults. This study therefore looked at creating a more holistic understanding of self-harm in adult populations and examines if there are qualitative differences between adult and adolescent self-harm. This was done by conducting an integrative review on studies done on the topic of self-harm in community-based populations of adults between the years 2001 and 2020. The categories of interest consisted of: demographics; risk factors; motivators; techniques of self-injurious behaviour; social contagion; assessment; treatment; and prevention. After this, the results were compared to the results found in an integrative review on adolescent self-harm conducted by Wilkinson (2011) that encompassed studies done from 2001-2010, along with an update conducted during this study to encompass 2011-2020 to ensure comparability. An additional analysis was conducted to look at adult self-harm and the increasing presence of social media. Results show that self-harm is a relevant issue for adult populations in addition to adolescents. Also, even though there are similarities between self-harm in adolescence and adulthood, certain differences are also apparent. Finally, with the increasing use of technology, there is the potential for both harmful and helpful impacts on self-harm. To conclude, self-harm is a prevalent issue in adulthood and needs to be addressed specifically instead of treating it the same as it appears in adolescence.
Self-harm, Self-injury, Integrative review