Attributions about Self-Harm: A Comparison between Young People's Self-Report and the Functions Ascribed by Preservice Teachers and School Counsellors

Publication Name

Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools


Globally, adolescent self-harm rates remain high, while help-seeking behaviour remains low. School staff are in a position to facilitate access to appropriate care for young people who self-harm (YPS-H), but little is known about gatekeepers' attributions of self-harm or whether these attributions influence the support they provide. This study investigates the perceived functions of self-harm reported by potential gatekeepers and examines how these compare to the self-reported functions of self-harm in young people; 386 students from postgraduate teaching (n = 111), school counselling (n = 37), and undergraduate psychology (n = 238) programs completed a survey regarding their beliefs about YPS-H, which included the Inventory of Statements about Self-Harm. Responses were compared to those of 281 young people attending treatment at a suicide prevention program who completed the same measure. Preservice teachers, school counsellors and psychology students endorsed all functions of self-harm at a higher rate than treatment-seeking young people themselves. In particular, they endorsed interpersonal functions to a greater extent than the clinical reference group. The potential effect of greater endorsement of interpersonal influence as a function of self-harm gatekeeper's responding to YPS-H is discussed.

Open Access Status

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