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The non-display of authentic distress: public-private dualism in young people's discursive construction of self-harm

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>07/2011
<mark>Journal</mark>Sociology of Health and Illness
Issue number5
Volume33
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)777-791
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article draws from focus groups and interviews investigating how young people talk about self-harm. Some of the research participants had personal experience of self-harm but this was not a prerequisite for their inclusion in the study. Thematic coding was used initially to organise and give an overview of the data, but the data were subsequently analysed using a discourse analytic approach. The article focuses on the young people's constructions of deliberate self-harm such as 'cutting'. Throughout the focus groups and interviews, a dichotomy was set up by the young people between authentic, private self-harm which is rooted in real distress (and warrants a sympathetic response) and public, self-indulgent attempts to seek attention. This dualistic construction is discussed in some detail and located in various socio-cultural contexts. It is argued that the dualism illustrates contemporary ambivalence about mental health and youth.