Self-Harm and Psychiatric Morbidity in Women Prisoners

Author: Hina Javed Rana

Supervisor: Nashi Khan, PhD

Degree: MS

Year: 2010-2013

University: Institute of Applied Psychology, Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan


The current study aimed to assess Self-Harm and Psychiatric Morbidity in Women Prisoners. The current study also aimed to explore the phenomena of self-harm in women prisoners. It was hypothesized that more traumatic life experiences increase the risk of self-harm in women prisoners and incidence of psychiatric morbidity i.e., depression, somatoform, anxiety, and low frustration tolerance increases the risk of self-harm among women prisoners. Mixed methodology design was employed and current study was conducted in two phases. In Phase I, the sample comprised of 38 women prisoners selected on the basis of inclusion and exclusion criteria from Kot Lakhpat Central Jail Lahore, Pakistan. Symptom Checklist- Revised and Deliberate Self-Harm Inventory was used to assess Psychiatric Morbidity and Self-Harm in women prisoners. A performa of Structured Interview was devised by the researcher to assess traumatic life experiences of women prisoners who indulged in self-harming behaviors. Results of phase I revealed that mental distress, unsatisfactory relations with husband, physical abuse, low family support, and distance from children during imprisonment were reasons of self-harm in women prisoners. Women prisoners were experiencing depression, anxiety, and somatization. In Phase II, collective case studies were done for having detailed information of women prisoners, their perception about self-harm, their reasons behind the act of self-harm, and effects of self-harm on their lives. Both participants of Phase II also participated in Phase I of the current study. Major themes derived in Phase II study were the expression of pain, environmental, and psychological factors which includes: escape behavior, physical abuse, aggression, mental distress, anger, helplessness, and relief from pain. The results of both Phase I and Phase II support each other. Implications of the findings for psychologists and policy makers are discussed in the context of Pakistani culture and prison settings of Pakistan.

Keywords: Self-Harm, Psychiatric Morbidity.

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Corresponding Address: Department of Applied Psychology, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. Email:, Phone: 92-42-9231245

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