Self-injury, stigma, and identity: The Northern Ireland context

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Self-injury research has been located primarily in the disciplines of psychiatry and psychology however it is gaining increasing recognition as an interdisciplinary field, ripe with potential for sociological and psychosocial analysis. In this article, I revisit Goffman’s theory to explore retrospectively the dynamic nature of stigma and identity for people affected by self-injury in the socio- political context of Northern Ireland. Drawing on 30 in-depth interviews with people reporting a history of self-injury and practitioners in community roles who provide support to people that self-injure, I sought to understand their perspectives on the moral career of people who self-injure. This article provides insight into participants’ experiences of three intersecting phases in the lives of those who self-injure: engaging in self-injury; help-seeking interactions; and, recovery. I propose that developing critical understanding of social theory is paramount for self-injury interventions in practice, research, and policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-328
Number of pages16
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number3
Early online date1 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 4 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author would like to thank Dr Noreen Giffney of Ulster University for her proofreading and constructive feedback on a previous version of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Clinical Psychology
  • Law
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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