A History of Self-Harm in Britain: A Genealogy of Cutting by Chris Millard

By Chris Millard

This ebook is open entry below a CC via license and charts the increase and fall of varied self-harming behaviours in twentieth-century Britain. It places self-cutting and overdosing into old viewpoint, linking them to the massive adjustments that ensue in psychological and actual healthcare, social paintings and wider politics.

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Extra resources for A History of Self-Harm in Britain: A Genealogy of Cutting and Overdosing

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Finally, the work of Frederick Hopkins at a Liverpool observation ward can show how these combinations begin to make visible a communicative attempted suicide, through the opportunity for psychiatric scrutiny of patients presenting at hospital due to a physical injury. The methods most commonly reported here are coal gas, liquid corrosive and medication poisoning. Poisoning thus seems to resonate with the psychological ambiguity that becomes well-established in the 1960s. Hopkins’s object emerges through an uneasy negotiation between the persistently separated approaches of general and mental medicine.

The distinction between two sources of information is erased. We then turn to the specifics of our story. The context right at the core of this work is one which enables patients who arrive at hospitals after having suffered a physical injury to be assessed by psychological and psychiatric clinicians. It is this psychological expertise, and the assumptions contained within it, that enable the presenting physical injury (in 22 A History of Self-Harm in Britain this period, an overdose of medication) to be transformed into a pathological communication, a symptom of a disordered social environment, a simulation, or a cry for help.

Chapter 4 examines a government research unit on psychiatric epidemiology in Edinburgh, and on how the profession of psychiatric social work is vital in relating a hospital attendance to a social situation, calling the object ‘self-poisoning’. Chapter 5 details the rise of a new form of ‘self-harm’ in Britain – self-cutting as a means of internal tension reduction – which surfaces during the 1960s (in both Britain and North America). The British literature on self-cutting is analysed, with the chief focus on how self-cutting emerges in inpatient settings and is gradually understood as motivated by internal tension, rather than analysed as a potentially contagious social phenomenon.

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