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Psyche on the Skin- A history of Self-Harm

  • 1 Comment

’I would recommend this book for mental health nurses with a specialist interest in the origins of self-harm or for student mental health nurses. ’

Title: Psyche on the Skin- A history of Self-Harm

Author: Sarah Chaney

Publisher: Reaktion Books LTD

Reviewer: Philippa Doherty, Research Nurse, QEHB

What was it like?

Psyche on the Skin is a historical analysis of the global psychological issue of self-harm. My concern when choosing this book to review was that it might end up being a self-indulgent account of the authors own experience of self-harm. This book however offers an interesting and detailed account of different kinds of self-harm throughout the ages, beginning with the religious practice of castration and historical practice of therapeutic blood-letting. I entered the nursing profession having originally completed a degree in Social Anthropology, so I found the historical accounts of self-harm as a cultural practice both novel and fascinating. I feel there is a tendency towards assuming that contemporary self-harmers are young women who practice ”cutting”. This book offers an insight into the broadness of self-harm; in that it is an affliction that affects both genders and people from vast cultural backgrounds.

Strengths & weaknesses:

In terms of a book itself, it reads as a series of essays, thus it feels more like an academic piece of work that may be used to support essay-writing by student nurses with an interest in mental health. It is well-written and although written in an academic way, it is accessible for a wide-audience.

What were the highlights?

As an adult nurse I found this book an interesting read and it caused me to reflect on the patients I may encounter within my own nursing speciality who may have a history of self-harm, but it is not really focussed clinically with any transferable advice for practice. Consequently, though I found it an interesting read, it would not be a book that I feel would aid my daily practice or routine care in an adult nursing setting.

Who should read this book?

I would recommend this book for mental health nurses with a specialist interest in the origins of self-harm or for student mental health nurses. This book may also be of interest for general nurses who work in emergency departments who would perhaps want more knowledge of motivating factors towards self-harm; though this would be more of a book of ‘interest’ for them, rather than a book that advises on how to change their clinical practice.

Overall, I found this an interesting read, it would be of particular interest for those who have an interest in history, religion and cultural-concepts of medicine in a mental health capacity.

psyche on the skin

psyche on the skin

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • " My concern when choosing this book to review was that it might end up being a self-indulgent account of the authors own experience of self-harm"!
    People who have lived experience of self-harm and who are courageous enough to share their accounts whether by writing books, poetry and songs can enlighten other people(especially some nursing staff) and aid understanding.
    Please try and remember patients who have had self-harming episodes are not just serregated in Mental Units and AE, but receive (sometimes illusionary ) non-judgemental care on General wards and all specialities.

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