Educating Health Care Providers about Self-Injury

July 25, 2014

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

Noting that non-suicidal self-injury (NNSI) is a widespread problem associated with increased suicide risk, and that many patients do not disclose their self-injury behaviors to their health care providers, researchers conducted a study to evaluate the effect of training in this area for health and mental health professionals. A study of medical and mental health professionals from Belgium revealed that those who had been trained about NSSI felt more knowledgeable about it, more empathetic toward those who self-injure, and more comfortable working with NSSI patients than those who had not received any training. Among those who had not received any training, mental health professionals felt more knowledgeable about the topic and more comfortable working with NSSI patients than did social workers or medical nurses. The authors suggest that educating mental health professionals about NSSI and providing mental health training to physicians, nurses, and social workers might improve the quality of care for NSSI patients and thereby increase their willingness to seek care.

Only 15 percent of the sample of social workers, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, and medical nurses had received any NSSI training. Of those who had been trained, psychologists reported a significantly greater level of knowledge and confidence than did members of the other professions. Of those who had not received any training, medical nurses felt the least knowledgeable and least comfortable working with NSSI patients.

This summary is based on: Muehlenkamp, J.J., Claes, L., Quigley, K., Prosser, E., Claes, S., & Jans, D. (2013). Association of training on attitudes towards self-injuring clients across health professionals. Archives of Suicide Research 17(4): 462-468.

SPRC Commentary

Our knowledge about non-suicidal self-injury and its relationship to suicidal behaviors has increased in recent years. To learn more about this important issue, we recommend reading an earlier Spark research summary, “Self-Injury and Suicide,” and viewing the archived webinar Understanding and Treating the Complex Puzzle of Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, produced by the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention