Stephanie Hannam Swain

Stephanie Hannam Swain

Disabled peoples’ conceptualisation and experiences of self-harm


Discipline/professional area
Disability studies/Education

Outline of research project

Self-harm is an important health concern in the UK. It is traditionally problematised from a psychological perspective which leads to it being a highly pathologised and stigmatised behaviour. Self-harm is increasingly accepted as being a coping mechanism for people who are experiencing extreme emotional turmoil, however, when literature looks at the behaviour in people with learning difficulties, the meaning behind the behaviour shifts away from a tool for communicating distress, towards ‘problem behaviour’ that needs to be stopped. In disabled people more generally there is little research into self-harm despite disabled people experiencing many of the ‘risk factors’ at a higher rate than a non-disabled population. 

My research aims to bring the principles of disability studies to the area of self-harm to increase the currently growing sociological understandings of the behaviour. I want to investigate how disabled people experience and understand their own self-harm behaviour and to find out how and if, they feel that their identity as a disabled person played a role in their self-harm.

Key references

Kraftl, P. (2006). Building an idea: The material construction of an ideal childhood. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 31(4), 488-504.

Beresford, P. (2002). Thinking about ‘mental health’: Towards a social model. Journal of Mental Health. 11(6). Pp 581-584. Doi: 10.1080/09638230020023921

Goodley, D. (2011). Disability Studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction. SAGE: London

Inckle, K. (2017). Safe with self-injury: a practical guide to understanding, responding and harm-reduction. PCCS Books: Monmouth

Reeve, D. (2005). Towards a psychology of disability: the emotional effects of living in a disabling society. In D. Goodley & R Lawthom (Ed). Disability and psychology: Critical Introductions and Reflections. Pp 94-107. London: Palgrave.

Thomas, C. (2007). Sociologies of Disability, “Impairment” and Chronic Illness: Ideas in Disability Studies and Medical Sociology. London: Palgrave

Director of studies
Dr Jen Slater

Dr Karen Dunn

Expected Completion date
March/April 2021

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