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Explanatory style in youth self-harm: an Indian qualitative study to inform intervention design

journal contribution
posted on 2020-08-01, 00:00 authored by Shilpa Aggarwal, G Patton, D Bahl, N Shah, Michael BerkMichael Berk, V Patel
Background There are very few studies that have examined the effectiveness of psychological interventions (PIs) that have been developed and tested in high-income countries to reduce self-harm in low and middle-income countries. Objective To evaluate the perspectives and explanatory styles of youth with self-harm and their caregivers to inform the design of an evidence based PI in a non-Western cultural setting. An additional objective was to suggest ways of integrating local practices and traditions to enhance its acceptability. Methods We conducted 15 in-depth qualitative interviews with youth with self-harm and four interviews with the caregivers in the psychiatry department of a tertiary hospital located in Mumbai, India. Data were analysed using phenomenological thematic analysis. Findings Five themes were uncovered: (i) contextual factors related to self-harm including interpersonal factors, intrapersonal factors and socio-cultural factors; (ii) formulation and current feelings about the attempt (iii) family members and friends as the perceived supports and deterrents for future self-harm attempts; (iv) treatment related experiences with counselling, in-patient and outpatient treatment and barriers to treatment; and (v) coping strategies. Recommendations for key areas of adaptation include therapist adaptation, content adaptation to accommodate for cultural considerations and broader social context. Gender based socio-cultural norms, beliefs and stigma attached to self-harm need to be specifically addressed in South Asian setting. Interpersonal conflicts are the most common triggers. Conclusion and clinical implications To our knowledge this is the first study in the South Asian context evaluating explanatory styles of youth with self-harm and their caregivers to inform the design of an intervention to ensure its cultural congruence. Cultural adaptation of an evidence based PI results in competent delivery and ensures best results in diverse ethno-cultural populations.



Evidence-based mental health






100 - 106


BMJ Publishing Group


London, Eng.







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal