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Talking about Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: The identification of barriers, correlates, and responses to NSSI disclosure

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Title: Talking about Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: The identification of barriers, correlates, and responses to NSSI disclosure
Author: Rosenrot, Shaina
Department: Department of Psychology
Program: Psychology
Advisor: Lewis, Stephen
Abstract: Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a prevalent behaviour among youth and young adults, yet little is known about why many youth choose not to disclose their NSSI. Disclosure of NSSI may have important implications for accessing treatment and eliciting support from family and friends. This dissertation sought to better understand the factors that promote and discourage NSSI disclosure, as well as gather a richer understanding of young adults’ experiences disclosing NSSI. To meet this aim, two studies were conducted. The first entailed a quantitative survey of 179 University of Guelph undergraduate students (Mage: 19 years, 85% women) with a history of NSSI. Results found that 22% of respondents had not disclosed to anyone. The majority of those who had disclosed first told a peer and rated that experience as being very difficult. Participants with self-reported scarring from NSSI reported more frequent, yet more difficult disclosure experiences, whereas those with higher levels of shame reported more difficult past disclosures and more negative attitudes toward future disclosures. Results highlight the need to further explore the impact of scarring on disclosure, as well as the role for shame-reduction messages, both in programs targeting NSSI and in individual psychotherapy. The second study sought to achieve a richer understanding of the process of disclosing NSSI and entailed a thematic analysis of interviews conducted with 17 participants (16 women and 1 man) using guidelines developed by Braun and Clarke (2006). Themes consisted of: barriers to disclosure (shame and concern about others); the role of scars (initiate disclosure, authenticate distress, enduring representation of pain); and responses to disclosure (silence/avoidance, understanding). Results underscored the central role of shame in NSSI disclosures, both as an experience impacting the difficulty and likelihood of disclosure and as a potential consequence of receiving avoidant responses to disclosure. Results also highlighted the role of scars from NSSI, including the impact of disclosures initiated by scars and the long-term consequences of having visible remnants of an act that carries societal stigma. Among the clinical implications discussed is the import of initiatives to reduce NSSI stigma and foster supportive and understanding responses to NSSI disclosures.
Date: 2015-08
Rights: Attribution 2.5 Canada
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Attribution 2.5 Canada Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution 2.5 Canada