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Abstract

This article explores the experiences of a sample of residential social care staff working with young people who self injure. Initially, a phone survey was conducted with residential centres caring for young people aged between 12-18 years located in Dublin, to identify centres where self injury had occurred within the twelve months prior to data collection in February 2008. Questionnaires were then sent to the centres where confirmed self injury had occurred and follow up interviews were thereafter conducted with ten residential social care workers. Each of the workers interviewed had been involved in managing the most recent incident of self injury in their centres. The article highlights important issues that are relevant to social care workers and other professionals who work with young people who engage in self injurious behaviour. The study suggests the need for specialised training on self injury to be provided to residential social care workers. The study also highlights the importance of supportive supervision and incident debriefing to reduce the personal and professional impact on workers of managing incidents of self injury in their work. Finally the study indicates that staff with different career experience seem to respond differently in managing incidents of self injury which, in turn, can impact upon how they meet the needs of young people in their care exhibiting self injurious behaviour.

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