What is self-harm?
Self-harm is an intentional act of harming oneself in order to release inner turmoil and is defined as self-poisoning or self-injury, irrespective of the apparent purpose of the act.1
- Self-injury which is when somebody purposefully injures their own body;
- Self-poisoning can include taking more than the recommended dosage of a medicine, purposefully taking a large amount of illegal drugs, or swallowing poisonous substances or objects
- Self-harm is an expression of severe emotional distress. It can stir up a lot of feelings and create a great deal of anxiety
- Self-harm is sometimes secretive and it is likely that many parents or guardians will be unaware that there is a problem
- Self-harm does happen in the adult population, women are more likely to self-harm than men, but self-harm is most prevalent in children and young people
How children and young people self-harm
Self-harm might be an attempt by an individual to end their life, but for the majority acts of self-harm are not intended to be suicidal.
- In teenagers, self-injury is twice as common as self-poisoning
- Cutting is by far the most common means of self-injury. This can be done with a knife, razor blade or any other sharp object that can scrape or penetrate the skin. Less common methods include burning or stabbing oneself
- A small additional percentage will have intentionally taken a dangerously large amount of an illicit drug or have poisoned themselves with some other substance.
The causes of self-harm
The incidence of self-harm is increasing. There are many reasons why children and young people may self-harm. However, the five most frequently reported reasons for self-harming by children and young people are:
- Bullying (25%)
- Family relationships (17%)
- Pressure to do well at school (14%)
- Emotional abuse (11%)
- Friendships (11%)1
Facts and myths
Misconceptions and poor attitudes towards children and young people with self-harm results in stigma and can negatively impact on care. Having worked through this resource, you are now in a better position to dispel any myths about self-harm.
|Project Protocol (website)||BMJ Open online journal: Our Care through Our Eyes’: a mixed-methods, evaluative study of a service-user, co-produced education programme to improve inpatient care of children and young people admitted following self-harm|
|Project Report (website)||Final Report 2016: A service-user co-produced digital education programme for acute hospital nurses to improve the care of children and young people that self-harm.|
|MindEd||MindEd is a free educational resource on children and young people’s mental health for all adults.|
|NHS Choices||NHS Choices is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service to help put patients in control of their healthcare. The website helps them to make choices about their health, from decisions about lifestyle, such as smoking, drinking and exercise, to finding and using NHS services in England.|
|YoungMinds||YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people. YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline: 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Care Pathways||Care Pathways links through to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) website and provides an excellent overview on self-harm.|