Self-harmers to be given clean blades
Sarah-Kate Templeton, Medical Correspondent
NURSES want patients who are intent on harming themselves to be provided with clean blades so that they can cut themselves more safely.
They say people determined to harm themselves should be helped to minimise the risk of infection from dirty blades, in the same way as drug addicts are issued with clean needles.
This could include giving the “self-harm” patients sterile blades and clean packets of bandages or ensuring that they keep their own blades clean. Nurses would also give patients advice about which parts of the body it is safer to cut.
The proposal for “safe” self-harm — which is to be debated at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress in April — is likely to provoke controversy.
At present nurses are expected to stop anyone doing physical harm to themselves and to confiscate any sharp objects ranging from razor blades to broken glass and tin cans.
However, Ian Hulatt, mental health adviser for the RCN, said: “There is a clear comparison with giving clean needles to reduce HIV. We will be debating introducing a similar harm-reduction approach. This may well include the provision of clean dressing packs and it may mean providing clean ‘sharps’.
“Nurses who encounter individuals who self-harm on a regular basis face a dilemma. Do they go for prohibition? Or do we allow this to occur in a way that minimises harm?”
Hulatt admitted there would be significant opposition: “Some nurses will not support this because our code of practice says we should not do patients any harm. But this may be less harmful than patients using dirty implements. There are mental health units that already allow the use of sterile implements.”
He was supported by Jeremy Bore, vice-chairman of the RCN’s prison forum, who said: “We should give patients clean blades and a clean environment to self-harm and then access to good-quality dressings.
“My instinct is that it is better to sit with the patient and talk to them while they are self-harming. We should definitely give advice on safer parts of the body to cut. It could get to the stage where we could have a discussion with the patient about how deep the cuts were going to be and how many.”
This is in Britain. Im still not entirely sure what I think on this subject but thought that some would find it interesting.