“I haven’t got a clue what policies are in place for this!”: physiotherapy students’ preparedness to deal with self-harm

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Objectives: The prevalence of self-harm and the potential link with suicidal ideation highlights the need to prepare future physiotherapists to deal with the potentially catastrophic outcomes to which a lack of understanding in this area can lead. The aim of this research was to investigate if final year physiotherapy students felt prepared to assess risk of suicide or self-harm following patient disclosure, or showing signs of intention to harm themselves. Design: An interpretive phenomenological methodology (IPA) was implemented to aid in the understanding and interpretation of participants’ own experiences. In conjunction with the overarching design, semi-structured interviews, via two focus groups, were used to explore participants’ views. Setting: Focus groups were conducted via an online platform. Participants: Purposive sampling was employed as a sampling method to recruit final year physiotherapy students. The final sample consisted of ten participants. Results: Four main themes were identified: Experiences of disclosure; Encountering mental health; Lack of mental health education, and Lack of knowledge regarding policy and procedure. Conclusions: The findings highlight a deficit with regards to the preparedness of final year students in dealing with disclosure to self-harm. A lack of both formal education regarding mental illness and of practice experience in the field of mental health contribute to this. Therefore, a more rigorous and directed approach to education regarding mental illness is essential. Furthermore, involvement in mental health practice placements would allow for a greater level of experiential learning and understanding of the issues faced by those living with mental illness.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date5 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Feb 2024


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