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Self-harm is defined as: ‘The act of deliberately causing harm to oneself either by causing a physical injury, by putting oneself in dangerous situations and/or self-neglect’.
Why do people self-harm?
Self-harm can take a number of forms. Self-harm is a way of coping and obtaining relief from a difficult and otherwise overwhelming situation or emotional state. Someone who self-harms is usually in a state of high emotion, distress and inner-turmoil. A person will often struggle with difficulties for some time before they self-harm.
Situations that can trigger self-harm:
- Relationship problems with partners, friends or family
- Pressures e.g. school work and exams, sporting performance, family issues
- Trying to fit in (some social groups are more accepting of self-harming behaviours)
- Feeling bad about one’s self (guilt, shame, worthlessness)
- Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
- Feeling depressed
Self-harm and Suicide:
Whilst self-injury and suicide are separate, those who self-injure are in emotional distress and those who end their lives are also in emotional distress. In addition, there is always the danger that self-harm could go wrong and cause death, although this may not have been the intention. It is vital that all emotional distress is taken seriously to minimise the chances of self-injury, and suicide. Any warning sign or talk of suicide must be taken seriously.
What to do if a young person discloses that they are self-harming:
- Listen to the young person in emotional distress calmly and explain that you are not judging them or their behaviour.
- Do not assuring confidentiality.
- Try to remain calm. Young people who self-harm can find it very hard to talk about what has happened and are often afraid of how people will react. The reaction a young person receives when they disclose their self-harm can have a critical influence on whether they go on to access supportive services. Any indication of a negative emotion or being judgmental is likely to aggravate the situation.
- If the wounds are fresh, seek first aid treatment and assessment.
- Members of staff should report incidents of self-harm in the same way as other safeguarding issues
- Where parents/carers are aware of such instances, we would strongly recommend that school is informed.
If it is disclosed to the school that a student is self-harming
The student will be seen by one of the designated safeguarding leads in the school together another suitable member of staff except where parents/carers inform the school and provide information.
If the student is expressing suicidal thoughts or is in imminent danger of causing themselves significant harm, parents/carers will be called and advised to take the child to A & E. In extreme cases an ambulance will be called. In these cases, the school is required to make a referral to the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).
Where the self-harm does not cause concern for the students immediate welfare, the Designated Safeguard Lead or Deputy Safeguard Lead will contact parents/carers and advise that a GP appointment is made. Further support such as a meeting with the School’s Student Welfare officer, Student Counsellor or a referral to CAHMS will be discussed with the parents/carers.
Students will be advised:
- Not to display open wounds/injuries. These should be dressed appropriately.
- To talk to the appropriate member of staff if they are in emotional distress
- To alert a teacher if they suspect another student is self-harming or at serious risk of harm to themselves, and know when confidentiality must be broken.
For further information on self-harm visit:-