Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 41, No. 1, 37–51, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study aimed to understand and explore differences between pre-service and in-service teachers’ knowledge, confidence and attitudes towards non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), and how these variables relate to demographics and prior education in NSSI.
The participants were 267 pre-service secondary teachers and 261 in-service secondary teachers from Australia who completed self-report questionnaires.
The findings revealed that despite their willingness to help pupils who self-injure, pre- and in-service teachers identify their lack of knowledge, training and resources to address confidently self-injury in schools.
The findings indicated that pre-service teachers were more confident than in-service teachers that they could cope with legal and school regulations in relation to NSSI, while training in NSSI was related to confidence to address self-injury in schools.
The findings also indicated that although pre- and in-service teachers expressed a willingness to help pupils who self-injure, participants were unsure how to respond, and identified a lack of training and school policies.
However, pre-service teachers were more likely to request training in NSSI, suggesting that they are aware of potential gaps in their knowledge and support development of training resources for teachers before they enter the profession. Conversely, in-service teachers highlighted the lack of available time and mental health services in schools, which is also the sentiment of teachers working in Canadian schools.
Participants reported being sympathetic and concerned for pupils’ welfare, but at the same time ill-equipped to give pupils the support they believed was required. Over half of in-service teachers had responded to pupils who self-injure, but only one in five had received training, suggesting that as with teachers in the US, there is a clear disconnect between practice and teacher education.
These results suggest multiple education options, including curriculum-based courses for pre-service teachers and professional development programmes for inservice teachers. Pre-service teachers would benefit from learning how to recognize pupils who self-injure, skills in talking to pupils who self-injure and when and how to access professional services.
Furthermore, major components of professional development for in-service teachers could include furthering teachers’ understanding of how to communicate with pupils who self-injure and improving their knowledge of warning signs and referral protocols, fostering early identification and enhancing links with community health services to streamline referral practices. In light of pupils’ reluctance to seek help from teachers, training may enhance teachers’ confidence and ability to identify and communicate with these pupils, while at the same time could normalise their feelings and responses, reduce stigma and improve help-seeking intentions of pupils, thus preventing further self-injury and later suicide.
Training may be particularly relevant for teaching staff who perceive NSSI as merely attention-seeking or fashionable and enhance their openness to helping students who self-injure.