Using photo-elicitation to understand reasons for repeated self-harm: a qualitative study

Edmondson, A.J. ORCID: 0000-0002-0224-1997, Brennan, C. and House, A.O., 2018. Using photo-elicitation to understand reasons for repeated self-harm: a qualitative study. BMC Psychiatry, 18 (1): 98.

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Background: Reasons for self-harm are not well understood. One of the reasons for this is that first-hand accounts are usually elicited using traditional interview and questionnaire methods. This study aims to explore the acceptability of using an approach (photo-elicitation) that does not rely on solely verbal or written techniques, and to make a preliminary assessment of whether people can usefully employ images to support a discussion about the reasons why they self-harm.

Method: Interviews with eight participants using photo elicitation, a method in which photographs produced by the participant are used as a stimulus and guide within the interview.

Results: Participants responded positively to using images to support a discussion about their self-harm and readily incorporated images in the interview. Four main themes were identified representing negative and positive or adaptive purposes of self-harm: self-harm as a response to distress, self-harm to achieve mastery, self-harm as protective and self-harm as a language or form of communication.

Conclusions: Employing this novel approach was useful in broadening our understanding of self-harm.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: BMC Psychiatry
Creators: Edmondson, A.J., Brennan, C. and House, A.O.
Publisher: Springer
Date: 2018
Volume: 18
Number: 1
Rights: © The Author(s). 2018. Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 10 Jun 2020 08:39
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2020 14:08

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