Introduction: Self-Harm from Social Setting to Neurobiology

  • Chris Millard
Open Access
Part of the Mental Health in Historical Perspective book series (MHHP)


Self-harm is a significant mental health issue in the twenty-first century. The recorded rise in various behaviours, including deliberate self-cutting and self-burning, have been widely remarked upon and lamented.1 Eminent cultural historian Sander Gilman has recently written of a global ‘sharp public awareness of self-harm as a major mental health issue’.2 The behaviour is usually said to be motivated by a desire to regulate feelings of intolerable tension, sadness or emotional numbness, and is almost always reported to be ‘on the increase’; it is also often reported as a problem primarily affecting young women.3 Despite a steady stream of books and articles on this emotive subject from the 1980s onwards — from psychiatrists, social workers and sociologists among others — there remains little meaningful historical analysis of this phenomenon.


Attempted Suicide National Health Service Suicidal Behaviour Social Setting Physical Injury 
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Copyright information

© Chris Millard 2015

Open Access This Chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Millard
    • 1
  1. 1.Queen MaryUniversity of LondonUK

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