By Chris Millard
This booklet is open entry less than 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 ancient viewpoint, linking them to the massive alterations that ensue in psychological and actual healthcare, social paintings and wider politics.
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Extra info for A History of Self-Harm in Britain: A Genealogy of Cutting and Overdosing
One of the key sources supporting Anderson’s claim that ‘recorded suicide attempts far outnumbered registered suicides in Victorian London’ is a one-off: ‘Numerical Analysis of the Patients Treated in Guy’s Hospital’ (a general hospital) between 1854 and 1861. 42 A term produced in the mid-twentieth-century around communicative overdoses brought to National Health Service (NHS) hospitals is unsuitable for understanding an attempted suicide composed of police records and a one-off hospital analysis.
Relating a physical injury to a social, domestic, romantic or familial context is time-consuming and labour-intensive, requiring interviews, questionnaires, social workers, follow-up and home visiting. The injury is not just contextualised, it is fundamentally recast as a symptom of this social setting. A specifically domestic social context is constructed in various credible ways by a newly influential profession of psychiatric social workers (PSWs). It is through consistent psychological scrutiny around general hospitals that suicidal intent is made complex and ambiguous, in a consistent and stable way.
This is not to say that people in the past have not used the terms ‘cry for help’ or ‘attempted suicide’ or that they were wrong to do so. However, they are not talking about, recording or accessing the same thing. It is negligent to collapse this diverse richness into the psychological (or neurobiological or sociological) categories that happen to be current today. Adrian Wilson argues that ‘concepts-of-disease, like all concepts, are human and social products which have changed and developed historically, and which thus form the proper business of the historian’.
A History of Self-Harm in Britain: A Genealogy of Cutting and Overdosing by Chris Millard