We’ve created new resources designed to help writers present an accurate view of people at risk of self-harm.
Experts and campaigners, including Dr Veronica Heney in our Institute for Medical Humanities, want to encourage a better portrayal of those in mental distress.
There are few representations of self-harm in fiction or other media, but the team think a more thoughtful depiction could help people feel less alone and support their treatment.
They have produced two guides - one for writers and creatives and another for healthcare professionals – with input from people with experience of self-harm.
The resources are designed to show there is no one way to perfectly represent self-harm – it can be experienced in varied ways and can mean different things to different people - even to the same people at different points in their life.
They also show that fiction can be a way to open up conversations around self-harm or to reflect on assumptions we take for granted.
The team say this can be helpful for healthcare professionals, teachers, and for family and friends of people who self-harm.
The resources are designed to encourage writers and creatives to avoid misperceptions about who would usually self-harm.
This includes not reinforcing false assumptions, for instance that people who self-harm are seeking attention or are manipulative, or that self-harm itself is bizarre and inexplicable.
It asks writers to be aware that always ending stories with recovery could feel hopeful, but can also make ongoing self-harm or scars harder to talk about or recognise.
Writers are also asked to reflect on what they write and how this might shape how people who self-harm are treated.
The resources for writers and healthcare professionals were created collaboratively with people with experience of self-harm, and with Make Space, a user-led group that facilitates conversations around self-harm.
Learn more about Dr Veronica Heney, in Durham University’s Institute for Medical Humanities and Department of Sociology, and of the University of Exeter.
The research is funded by the Wellcome Trust.
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