Self-harm describes any behaviour where someone intentionally causes harm to themselves. Self-harm comes in many different forms:
• Cutting yourself
• Poisoning yourself
• Over-eating or under-eating
• Biting yourself
• Picking or scratching at your skin
• Burning your skin
• Inserting objects into your body
• Hitting yourself or walls
• Exercising excessively
• Pulling your hair
• Getting into fights where you know you will get hurt
What are the signs that a young person may be self-harming?
The signs below may be an indication of other things and do not always mean that someone is self-harming. Also, there may be no warning signs, therefore it is important that if you suspect a friend or family member is self-harming, that you ask them openly and honestly.
Some of these signs may be:
• Withdrawal or isolation from everyday life.
• Signs of depression such as low mood, tearfulness or a lack of motivation or interest in anything.
• Changes in mood.
• Changes in eating/sleeping habits.
• Changes in activity and mood, e.g. more aggressive than usual.
• Talking about self-harming or suicide.
• Abusing drugs or alcohol.
• Expressing feelings of failure, uselessness or loss of hope.
• Risk taking behaviour (substance misuse, unprotected sexual acts).
• Signs of low self-esteem such as blaming themselves for any problems or saying they are not good enough.
• Unexplained cuts, bruises or marks.
• Covering up all the time, when in hot weather.
• Being quieter than usual.
• Lacking energy.
Where or who do I go to for support?
It takes a lot of courage to make the first step to tell someone what you are experiencing, and equally, if you are a friend or family member. The disclosure of something so personal and intimate will always be a challenge. At Rooks Heath, we have experienced members of staff on our Safeguarding Team that have had training in supporting students and family members who are suffering the effects of self-harm. We would encourage you to share your experience, so that we can support you and your loved ones to stay safe. However, we understand that involving school can be a challenge and so a visit to your GP would be our first suggestion. There are also charities that specialise in supporting self-harmers, with confidential and highly trained therapists, and these are listed below in ‘Useful Contacts’. Early intervention always offers the best outcomes.
How can I support a young person that is self-harming?
It can be very difficult to know what to do to support someone that is self-harming. Remember, self-harm isn’t a suicide attempt or a cry for attention. Self-harm is not uncommon and affects more people than you might think. You will not be alone in your experience, however much you feel isolated by it, and there is a lot of support and information available. With the right help and care, people that self-harm can and do fully recover.
Useful Contacts and Further Information
• The Mental Health Foundation: The truth about self-harm: for young people and their friends and families. This booklet aims to help you understand more about self-harm and what to do if you are worried about yourself or someone else. It explains what self-harm is, what to do if you or someone you know is self-harming, and how to get help. Self-harm is very common and affects more people than you might think. www.mentalhealth.org.uk
• CS@rooksheath.harrow.sch.uk – email address for Rooks Heaths Safeguarding Team.
• PAPYRUS – Prevention of Young Suicide. They have a collection of useful leaflets for student and parents. Here are just a few of their resources.
https://papyrus-uk.org/v1-nightline-a5-flyer-151118/ - really good one for if you are worried about a friend.
• SelfHarm.co.uk – www.selfharm.co.uk is a project dedicated to supporting young people impacted by self-harm, providing a safe space to talk, ask any questions and be honest about what's going on in your life.
• Young Minds - www.youngminds.org.uk is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people. Driven by their experiences they campaign, research and influence policy and practice.
• WISH Centre – www.thewishcentre.org.uk – they support young people with highly trained psychotherapists and offer free talking therapy.
Some websites that have been recommended by young people include:
Some telephone helplines offer specialist advice on self-harm, others operate only as a ‘friendly listening ear’ – something many young people have said they value, particularly when they feel they have no-one else that they can turn to.
Helpful telephone numbers include:
• ChildLine – 0800 1111
• Samaritans – 08457 90 90 90
• Family Lives – 0808 800 2222
• Young Minds – 0808 802 5544
• Get Connected – 0808 808 4994
• “Healing Self-Injury: A Compassionate Guide for Parents and Other Loved Ones” by Janis Whitlock, (Oxford University Press) – this book offers hope to parents and carers of young people that self-harm.
• ‘Freedom from Self-Harm: Overcoming Self-Injury with Skills from DBT and Other Treatments’ by Kim L. Gratz PhD (Author), Alexander L. Chapman PhD RPsych (Author)