A qualitative study on lived experience of self-harm in South Asians in the UK: From reasons to recovery

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Objectives: Self-harm rates and clinical presentations differ by ethnicity. South Asian women are at risk of self-harm. Previous research suggested investigating individuals' experiences with self-harm with qualitative studies in developing self-harm prevention strategies. This research aims to explore self-harm experiences among South Asians in the United Kingdom. Design: Qualitative study. Methods: Participants were recruited via third-sector organizations and online platforms. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 South Asian individuals with a history of self-harm living in the United Kingdom. The data were analysed based on a reflective thematic analysis approach. Results: Results revealed four main themes: (1) reasons for self-harm; (2) recovery journey; (3) culture and mental health; and (4) the transition to suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Reasons for self-harm included negative life circumstances, social life difficulties, challenges faced during COVID-19 and mental health problems. Participants described their recovery journey by acknowledging the role of professional help, self-care, psychoeducation and personal growth, improving social relationships, and faith and spirituality. Cultural factors included generational differences and stigma. Culturally adapted psychological interventions were perceived as promising. The reported transition from self-harm to suicidal behaviours was linked to experiencing major stressful life events and the use of severe methods of self-harm. Conclusions: The findings suggest that socio-cultural factors impact mental health and recovery processes among South Asians. Mental health services should consider improving culturally sensitive clinical practices in responding to self-harm among South Asian communities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2023


  • ethnic minority
  • recovery
  • self-harm
  • South Asian
  • suicide
  • United Kingdom


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