ACAP Graduate Presents Self-Injury Research at International Conference

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ACAP graduate Lee Bresland is working to raise awareness and understanding of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Ms Bresland graduated from the Master of Psychology (Clinical) in May 2014. The findings of her study were recently presented at The International Society for the Study of Self Injury conference in June.

"We developed a program around building skills to deal with NSSI in schools and with families, which focused on training educational professionals on how to deal with self-harm," she explained. At the end of her study, she found that not only had awareness and knowledge among participants increased, but attitudes towards it were much improved.

Ms Bresland encourages mental health professionals, especially those working with young people, to ask their patients the question; "Do you do anything to hurt yourself?" This may tease out problematic habits and coping mechanisms.

Ms Bresland entered the Master of Psychology (Clinical) as a fully registered psychologist, wanting to further develop her clinical skills and work in a hospital setting. "I thought the program was just amazing," she said, "I was absolutely thrilled to get in!"

In her study, Ms Bresland describes non-suicidal self-injury as a phenomenon in which people deliberately hurt themselves, for example by hitting, cutting, scratching, or burning the skin, but without suicidal intent. She says the condition is misunderstood and often trivialised.

“Although patients may not fit the definition of any other kind of mental illness, they are at a greater risk of depression, anxiety, mood and eating disorders. It is important that anyone who identifies as a self-injurer or self-harmer gets help, and that they are taken seriously. If not dealt with early on, it is likely to become their main way of coping, as well as posing a very real physical danger."

"This is the work I will continue with, both in schools and in private practice; there is much more to be done."