‘Coping with the job’: prison staff responding to self-harm in three English female prisons: a qualitative study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • External authors:
  • Lea Hamilton
  • Clive Turpin
  • Catherine Reid


This study considers how those who work in prisons are affected by and respond to repetitive self-harm of imprisoned women in English prisons. This paper considers the perspectives of custodial staff working in this area on a day-to-day basis. Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 14 prison staff and explored using techniques of thematic analysis. The interviews examined: the emotional impact of working with and witnessing self-harm incidents, coping strategies used, training and the support available to prison staff. Findings indicate the strategies used by staff to cope emotionally with such incidents and these include presenting a ‘façade of coping’, rejecting support and becoming desensitised. It is concluded that staff felt they must portray themselves as coping well with self-harm in prison even when they were troubled and emotionally affected by it. However, some did describe accepting help when outside of the prison and this has implications for how support can be offered in the future. It is recommended that more should be done to support and train staff in this area.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology
Early online date12 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017