GPs role identifying young people who self-harm: a mixed methods study

Fiona Fox, Paul Stallard, Geraldine Cooney

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Background: Self-harm is common among young people and is evident in increasingly younger age groups. Many young people who self-harm do visit their General Practitioner (GP) but do not access specialist support. GP’s can find it challenging to raise and discuss this sensitive subject with young people during short consultations.

Objective: To explore GP’s capabilities, motivations and opportunities for discussing self-harm and to identify barriers to and enablers for proactively discussing self-harm with young people.

Design and Setting: An exploratory, mixed-methods study was designed comprising an online survey and a qualitative interview study with GPs in the South West of England.

Methods: An online survey was completed by 28 GPs. Ten GPs took part by telephone, in semi-structured interviews. Quantitative data was analysed using descriptive statistical techniques and thematic analysis was used to analyse the qualitative data. Findings from the quantitative and qualitative analysis are synthesised to illustrate GPs’ skills, knowledge and perceptions about young people who self-harm.

Results: Experienced GPs may underestimate the prevalence of self-harm in young people, particularly in the11-14 age range. Whilst consultations with young people and their carers can be challenging, GPs acknowledge that it is their role to provide support for young people who self-harm. GPs would welcome training for themselves and other practice staff in talking to young people and practical information about self-harm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-419
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number4
Early online date8 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • General Practice; Self-Injurious Behavior; Adolescent; Identification; Education


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