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Commentary: Defining self-harm: how inconsistencies in language persist – a commentary/reflection on Ward and Curran (2021)

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-374
Number of pages3
JournalChild and Adolescent Mental Health
Issue number4
Early online date20 Aug 2021
Accepted/In press2021
E-pub ahead of print20 Aug 2021
PublishedNov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The authors have declared that they have no competing or potential conflicts of interest. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health

King's Authors


Self-harm definition is an important focus of academic research and clinical practice. The precise definition of self-harm has been contested for decades, and current terminology varies across, and sometimes within, countries. This commentary has been written to highlight the problematic use of the term ‘deliberate’ self-harm (i.e. DSH) and to clarify the terminology currently recommended by clinical agencies in the United Kingdom. Comparisons will be made to other definitions in the field, such as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), with the aim of contributing to the worldwide discussion about how we conceptualise, discuss and treat suicidal and non-suicidal behaviours. The commentary concludes by highlighting the findings of Ward and Curran (2021). It is suggested that undiagnosed ADHD may be a potential driver for self-harm, particularly among girls, further highlighting the ongoing challenges in identifying and predicting which youth are at risk for self-harm and suicidal behaviours. Central to this challenge has been the long-standing confusion around the best way to define self-harm.

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