Adverse childhood experiences, resilience, suicide and harm
We were lucky to have a wonderful presentation by Dr Amy Chandler at our seminar in December 2018. Several participants asked to see Amy’s presentation again – the link to which was unhelpfully hidden in my summary of the event.
So, here is a quick link to Amy’s presentation and slides. In it she examines the potentially counter-productive ways ACEs are used in research on suicide and self-harm. Early experiences, Amy noted, are undeniably important in shaping later risks of, or experiences with, suicide and self-harm. However, there is a tendency to rely on a mechanical or ‘addictive’ analysis, with a correlation drawn between early adversity and later problems. The work of explaining what these correlations actually mean, or understanding the mechanisms behind them, are less well developed. Drawing on her own research, Amy highlighted that this focus can mean that interpretation and meaning is omitted – what do adverse experiences mean and feel like to different people, at different times? And how are social and political conditions implicated in this? Also absent, Amy suggested, is the role of agency. The popular narrative of resilience plays into the long standing stigmatisation of mental health problems as being associated with weakness. This way of thinking about resilience implies that those experiencing self-harm and suicide are not resilient. The reverse can in fact be true, with the practice of self-harm being evidence of extreme resilience in extreme circumstances.
You can read more about Amy’s research on the Suicide Cultures website: https://suicidecultures.wordpress.com/
Amy’s award winning book, Self-injury, Medicine & Society questions traditional discourse on the topic of self-injury to examine how and why someone might self-harm:
Finally, her latest paper explores engagement with mental ill-health in social science, published in Social Theory & Health: https://rdcu.be/bnYn7