Jimenez Molina Alvaro
PhD student in Sociology, Paris Descartes University
Scholarship from Becas-Chile for PhD studies abroad, the CONICYT, and the Chilean Ministry of Education
Dissertation title: Self-harm in adolescence: A comparative study on psychological suffering and social malaise in Chile and in France
Under the supervision of Alain Ehrenberg
In recent decades, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of mental disorders in the adolescent population. In this context, risk behavior, “acting out,” and self-harm (suicide, suicide attempts, self-mutilation, or “self-cutting”) have acquired great social visibility. Self-harm has not only become, historically, a major problem in psychiatric classification, it has also become increasingly frequent, and a major clinical and epidemiological problem for public-health institutions and mental-health professionals. This research aims to show how self-harm among adolescents constitutes a genuine sociological problem related to the tensions produced by the transformations of individualism in contemporary societies (promoting the capacity to act on one’s own without being overwhelmed by affects, acquiring a discipline of generalized autonomy, etc.). Adolescents are a privileged population to account for these changes because they have become a new focus of “social issues” and seem to lie at the intersection of various social representations of our time; moreover, adolescents – both in Chile and in France – have become the object of new mental-health policies that transcend the usual area of psychiatry, redefining the boundaries between the social and health spheres. This research aims to describe the experiences, representations, and practices of adolescents and mental-health professionals as well as the policies and methods of treating self-harm (suicide attempts and self-mutilation) in Chile and in France. The research will primarily apply a descriptive and mixed methodology: a) ethnography (observation and description of practices and interactions in mental-health institutions) and semi-structured interviews (to show the representations of actors in mental health); b) a historical approach (to describe the evolution of the psychiatric categories and taxonomies associated with self-harm); and c) a comparative perspective (Chile/France) in order to connect symptom and culture (transcultural differences and similarities) and to bring out truth by contrast.