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Council Services:

Self Harm

Self-harm can be really hard to understand but it is a lot more common than some people think. Between one in 12 and 1 in 15 people self-harm.

Self-harming is when a person chooses to inflict pain on themselves in some way. If you are self-harming, you may be cutting or burning yourself, biting your nails excessively, developing an eating disorder or taking an overdose of tablets. It can also include taking drugs or excessive amounts of alcohol. It is usually a sign that something is wrong.

You may self-harm if you are feeling anxious, depressed or stressed or if you are being bullied and feel that you do not have a support network or way to deal with your problems. The issues then ‘build up’ to the point where you feel like you are going to explode. Young people who self-harm often talk about the ‘release’ that they feel after they have self-harmed, as they use it as a mechanism to cope with their problems.

You may self-harm to relieve tension, to try and gain control of the issues that may be concerning you or to punish yourself. Sometimes in severe cases it is an attempt to commit suicide if the problems are very severe.

Research has shown that young women are the group who are most likely to self-harm although the percentage of young men who self-harm is on the increase. It found 10 per cent of 15-16 year olds have self-harmed and 25,000 children and young people are admitted to hospital each year due to the severity of their injuries and so, if you are self-harming, you are not alone and there is help available.

Often people who self-harm are doing so because they are experiencing a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety or have numerous problems so getting help to deal with some of these underlying issues is often key to overcoming or managing self-harm.

Self-harming is very dangerous. It is a definite sign that you have an underlying problem, and if it got out of hand, you could risk killing yourself, maybe accidentally.

Self harm help

If you are self-harming, there is help available and it is important to get the support you need.

Many young people who self-harm do so privately away from other people and do not want to talk to other people about it, sometimes for fear of how people will react, thinking that they might not understand. If you can talk to someone, this may help how you are feeling.

People to talk to

  • Grandparents
  • Auntie/uncle or other relative
  • Friend
  • Parents’ friend
  • Brother or sister
  • Mentor
  • School nurse
  • Teacher
  • Youth Worker

If you don’t feel like you can confide in anyone, then go and talk to your GP and seek medical help.

Talk to your GP

Talk to your GP about how you feel and any other issues you may have as well as the self-harm for example if you are being bullied or if you are feeling anxious or depressed as it may be that tackling the underlying issues will help you to cope with problems without self-harming. If your GP is dismissive or unhelpful you have a right to change GPs. But your GP can help and may offer you a range of support. The GP may offer counselling or therapy including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which looks at understanding your thoughts and behaviour. You may also be referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) for an assessment, or sent to hospital for treatment.

Getting professional help

Nice is the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and provides guidance on medical issues. Nice guidance has been produced on the care you should expect to receive from healthcare professionals if you are seeking help around self-harm.

  • You should be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Any injuries you have should be treated straight away and not left because you harmed yourself.
  • If you go to hospital, you should be seen by a doctor or nurse who is trained to work with children and young people who self-harm, in a special area set aside for children and young people.
  • If you have to stay at the hospital then you stay in a paediatric (children’s) ward or an adolescent paediatric unit for over 14s and be checked by someone who is properly trained the following day.
  • When you are in hospital, someone from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) team should carry out an assessment and ask you about how you are and look at any problems you think you have or might have when you go home.
  • Young people who have self-harmed several times may be offered group psychotherapy - a chance to talk through your problems with other young people.

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Last updated: 2 June 2017

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