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VIDEO: Self-harm film breaks down cultural taboos

28 April 2014

Award-winning independent film maker Sam Gonçalves - aka Sidling Bears - and Abertay sociologist Jan Law have created a new film to help raise awareness of self-harm and break down the cultural taboos that surround it.

Developed in conjunction with the Dundee-based self-harm support group Rebound, the film gives a voice to those who self-harm and is intended to help health professionals better understand why people self-harm and how they can support them.

Jan explains:

"The film is called 'Harm' and the project used an approach known as Participatory Action Research, which involves working and researching at a community level with local organisations, seeking to include marginalised groups by involving them in the research to help give them a voice. So it's like working from the bottom up.

"The focus for the project was on mental health and, working with Rebound, we found that many of the people who use support services feel that, outwith Rebound, there is a lack of understanding amongst health and educational professionals about their condition.

"However, we were also aware that many health and educational professionals are screaming out for useful and innovative ways to try and teach and raise awareness of sensitive issues such as self-harm.

"So we created this film both to give people who self-harm a voice to explain why they do it, and to help others better understand the condition so that they are in a better position to support them and help them through the issues affecting them.

"I’ve already had requests from educational and health professionals who want to incorporate it into their teaching and training packages, which is wonderful. Sam, the Director, handled what is a very sensitive subject perfectly and has created a beautiful film.

"It has been entered into this year's Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival and I think would be a very deserving winner.

"Its main aim is to get across the message that help and support for people who self-harm does exist and, most importantly, that there is hope that they can learn to manage the condition.

"A supportive, collaborative and therapeutic relationship with someone reliable and understanding is vital for both those who self-harm and for those who provide support, and I think this film gets that message across really well."

Jan Law is a Teaching Fellow in our Sociology Division.

'Harm' is just one of a number of innovative educational training tools for nurses and teachers that she, and others at Abertay, are developing with Rebound.

For further information on 'Harm', or any of these other projects, please email

To find out more about Sidling Bears please click here.

If you are experiencing any problems related to self-harm, or know someone who is, please contact our Counselling service, where there will be somebody impartial to talk to in a safe and confidential environment.

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