By Chris Millard

This e-book is open entry lower than a CC via license and charts the increase and fall of assorted self-harming behaviours in twentieth-century Britain. It places self-cutting and overdosing into ancient standpoint, linking them to the large alterations that ensue in psychological and actual healthcare, social paintings and wider politics.

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Additional info for A History of Self-Harm in Britain: A Genealogy of Cutting and Overdosing

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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.

It is increasingly recast as a pathological communication with a social circle or significant other. A number of psychiatrists, including Frederick Hopkins in Liverpool (1937–43), Stengel in London (1952–8) and Ivor Batchelor in Edinburgh Self-Harm from Social Setting to Neurobiology 29 (1953–5) begin to exploit the uneasy cohabitation of general medical and psychiatric expertise in these ‘secure’ areas connected to various general hospitals. Suicide statistics from coroners’ court proceedings are thus fundamentally different to psychological analyses of attempted suicide from mental-observation wards.

The Local Government Act 1929 abolishes the Poor Law, and the Mental Treatment Act 1930 broadens the scope for uncertified – so-called ‘informal’ – mental treatment. This brings mental and general medical therapeutics closer together, principally around the old workhouse mental blocks in former Poor Law infirmaries, now called mental observation wards in local authority hospitals. These wards are associated with mental illness and the use of restraint, but also as a diagnostic ‘clearing station’, a place where mental and general medicine interact, forming a distinctive field of visibility.

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