Self-harm is when a person hurts themselves deliberately as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences that feel out of control. It can create a calming sensation or be used to ‘awaken’ a person who is feeling numb and dissociated.
The most common forms of self-injury are scratching, cutting, burning and non-suicidal overdosing (chronic self-medication). Many people find unique ways to hurt themselves and acts are often secretive.
Sometimes there are a warning signs which include:
- Negativity and lack of self-esteem
- Appearing unhappy or depressed
- Out of character behaviour
- A history of bullying or problems at home
- A sudden change in friends or withdrawal from a group
Sometimes there are indications of self-injury which include:
- Obvious cuts, scratches or burns that do not appear of an accidental nature
- Head banging, hitting or pulling hair
- Frequent ‘accidents’ that cause physical injury
- Taking personal risks or neglecting themselves
- Reluctance to take part in physical exercise or other activities that require a change of clothes
- Wearing long sleeves and trousers even during hot weather
It is common to feel scared about the possibility of someone seriously hurting themselves or even taking their own life; it is useful to remember that self-harm doesn’t necessarily mean that someone wants to end their life.
Schools are in a unique position to notice warning signs and indications of self-injury in their pupils. It is really important that you do no react negatively, remain calm and make it known that you are available to listen. Schools are encouraged to have a self-injury policy in place.
Between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people in the UK self-harm. It’s often a sign of another mental health problem as is used as a way of relief or escape (Young Minds).
In Torbay rates of self-harm are significantly higher than the England average. There are around 980 hospital admissions per 100,000 young people aged 10-24 years in Torbay (2014/15-2016/17). Admissions are higher in females, particularly in the 15-19 year age group as shown in the chart below.