'Alternative' methods of coping: tattooing and humour as non-traditional methods of emotional expression

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


Much research has explored ‘traditional’ coping mechanisms individuals use to manage their own mental wellbeing. For example, websites which offer advice to young people (YP) on how to manage their own depression have discussed the benefits of physical exercise and healthy eating (e.g. Helpguide, 2014; KidsHealth, 2014; WebMD, 2014). Similarly, much research has explored the benefits of social support for positive mental health outcomes in YP (Rothon, Goodwin and Stansfield, 2012). However, there has been less of a focus on non-traditional, and often implicit strategies that YP employ in order to make sense of, discuss and manage emotions. This paper will review these non-traditional methods of expression that are particularly relevant to YP, with a specific focus on humour and tattooing. Although unrelated, they both differently provide YP with an ‘appropriate’ avenue to construct, make sense of and deal with difficult emotional experiences that occur in some YPs lives. Previous work on tattooing conceptualises it as being associated with negative mental health (Carroll et al, 2002; Brooks et al, 2003). However, with the popularity of tattooing in YP rising, tattoos are being used as a strategy to materially demonstrate what they have overcome, and as a symbol for strength (Way, 2013; Anderson, 2014). In comparison, humour is more of a discursive strategy enabling YP to reframe their distress and communicate it to others in a way that they feel comfortable (Plancherel and Monique, 1995). Similarly, professionals working with YP use humour as a method to communicate and regulate their own negative emotions (Gilgun and Sharma, 2013). This paper is a holistic review of both the literature and the media, exploring how YP negotiate understandings of emotion with particular relevance to humour and tattooing.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014
EventChild and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) Conference 2014 - The University of Northampton
Duration: 1 Jul 2014 → …


ConferenceChild and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) Conference 2014
Period1/07/14 → …
Internet address


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