Models for hysteresis in continuum mechanics are studied that rely on a time-discretised quasi-static evolution of Young measures akin to a gradient flow. The main feature of this approach is that it allows for local, rather than global minimisation. In particular, the case of a non-coercive elastic energy density of Lennard-Jones type is investigated. The approach is used to describe the formation of damage in a material; existence results are proved, as well as several results highlighting the qualitative behaviour of solutions. Connections are made to recent variational models for fracture.