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A grounded theory exploration of deliberate self-harm in incarcerated women

Mangnall, Jacqueline PhD, RN1; Yurkovich, Eleanor EdD, RN2

Journal of Forensic Nursing: June 2010 - Volume 6 - Issue 2 - p 88–95
doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3938.2010.01072.x
Original Articles

The purpose of this study was to explicate a definition of deliberate self-harm (DSH) and present a model that illustrates the DSH process as experienced by incarcerated women. Grounded theory was used to guide the collection and analysis of data. A circular process of DSH emerged. For the incarcerated women in this study anxiety caused a visceral build-up of tension that reached a critical level necessitating a need to act in some way to gain relief. DSH supplied the mechanism by which overwhelming tension was released. The temporary relief, however, was soon supplanted by the negative consequences of disciplinary detention imposed as a means of punishment that in turn, lead to more anxiety and anger. Implications: Nurses practicing in corrections need to work towards “decriminalizing” DSH and to develop a prison protocol that gives nurses permission to “just listen” and incarcerated women permission to “just talk” without fear of reprisal.

1Jamestown College, Jamestown, ND

2University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND

Received: September 10, 2008; accepted: March 31, 2009

Correspondence Jacqueline Mangnall, PhD, RN, Jamestown College. Tel: 701–252–3467; E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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