|dc.description.abstract||Background: Self-harm is important considering the demand it places on health services and
its strong association as a risk factor for suicide. Research regarding protective factors for
self-harm is limited, protective factors can be personal or social resources that reduce the
impact of negative consequences, in the face of stressors. Identifying protective factors is
important, provided they can be enhanced and utilised to inform intervention.
Aims: This thesis had two aims; to systematically review the literature investigating the
relationship between social support and suicidality, and to use Interpretative
Phenomenological Analysis to explore the factors that support desistance from self-harm.
Methods: Quantitative studies, exploring the relationship between social support and
suicidality were reviewed systematically. The empirical study employed Interpretative
Phenomenological Analysis to investigate self-harm behaviour in context, identify potential
protective factors and explore what participants have found to be helpful to desist from selfharm
behaviour. Semi structured interviews were conducted with nine participants (18-
61years) recruited from the Adult Community Mental Health Team.
Results: Findings of the systematic review indicate that there is an association between poor
social support and increased suicidality in adulthood. In the empirical study four main themes
emerged from the data: Self-harm provided Relief from Psychological Distress, Difficulties
Communicating, Social support and Gradual desistance.
Conclusions: Social support may be an important factor that protects against suicidality;
however further research is required to investigate this association. Findings from the
empirical study suggest that treatment providers must be sensitive to the context and function
of self-harm behaviour for the individual, and be willing to work to reduce the self-harm
behaviour, while being cognisant that self-harm may be protective for the individual and
prevent more severe self-harm or even suicide.||en