Self Harm: What should school staff be aware of?

Self harm is an increasing problem among children and young people and schools are on the front-line. Child and educational psychologist Dr Joanna Mitchell offers some advice on spotting the signs and how to respond.

Self harm is a concerning reality for teachers, parents and professionals working with children and young people today.

Recent statistics conclude that rates have increased in the UK and are now among the highest in Europe. According to the National Institute for Care and Excellence, the risk of suicide has also increased (NICE 2013).

Studies conclude that between 10 and 12 per cent of young people self harm, but the true incidence is largely unknown as many young people do not present for help.

A recent poll commissioned by ChildLine, YouthNet, SelfHarmUK and YoungMinds revealed that of the 2,000 children and young people surveyed, over half of the 11 to 14-year-olds reported having self harmed, or knowing someone who had. Equally, eight out of ten 18 to 21-year-olds say they have self harmed or know someone who has (reported by NSPCC on Self Harm Awareness day – March 1, 2015).

The predominant reason young people give for not reporting their self harm is the concern that they will not be listened to or that they will be misunderstood.

Yet at the same time self harm is the one issue that all groups (young people, parents and professionals) feel least comfortable approaching. Parents tend to associate young people self harming with failing as a parent, and teachers feels helpless and unsure about what to say. Other research has found that three in five GPs do not know what language to use when talking about self harm with young people.

Children and young people’s general mental health continues to be a concern at both political, social and community levels. Below are some key principles for school staff in how to understand and mange this complex psychological and social phenomenon.

To read the full news article, follow this link:

In the News: Worldwide sexism increases suicide risk in young women

How do you explain that the leading cause of death of women aged 15 to 19, worldwide, is suicide? An internationally recognized expert on global mental health and suicide said in an interview with the Telegraph: “The most probable reason is gender discrimination.”

In other words, misogyny kills.

There are plenty of shocking statistics in a recently rediscovered 2014 study on suicide from the World Health Organization. The report found that suicides are responsible for half of all violent deaths in men and 71% of violent deaths in women. It also showed that globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death for all young people between the ages of 15 and 29 years old. Yet, somehow, it took us until now to notice just how badly it affects young women.

It was Dr Suzanne Petroni, the senior director for gender, population and development at the International Center for Research on Women, who first realized the chilling statistic as she was going through a WHO special report on adolescents. In a section on how maternal mortality has dropped, there was almost a throwaway line: “[M]aternal mortality ranks second among causes of death of 15–19-year old girls globally, exceeded only by suicide.”

The full article can be found at:

A*s in Fear, Misery and Self Harm: An Article by Allison Pearson

Three years ago, my daughter opened her GCSE results and promptly burst into tears. Had she failed a subject she was hoping to take at A level? No, she had “only” got 5A*s and 5As. If you think that sounds crazy then, strictly speaking, you are correct, but chances are you don’t have a teenager of your own. Craziness is where the young live now. Yesterday, I asked my girl what she thought lay behind the epidemic of mental health problems in young people. “You can never be good enough,” she shrugged. “I got really solid GCSEs but they could have been better. It’s not just academic work, it’s everything. Kids my age spend an average of eight hours a day online and 80 per cent of advertising features the female body, always perfect looking, so pretty much the whole time you know you’re not good enough.”

“Could do better” used to be the laconic teacher’s scrawl on a sub-standard essay; now it’s the self lacerating mantra of our children during what are supposed to be the best years of their lives. A survey by the World Health Organisation in 2014 revealed that a fifth of 15-year-olds in England said they had self harmed in the past twelve months. That finding bore out anecdotal evidence I had heard from other parents and teachers. Like my daughter’s tutor in the sixth form who suggested that her persistent stomach complaint might have a psychological cause. I was taken aback. “Do you really think so?,’ I asked dubiously.

“Probably a third of the year are suffering from depression, anorexia or self harming,” he replied.

The news was deafening. My daughter’s state school was rightly proud of its exam results, but it struck me as quite well-balanced compared to the London hothouses attended by friends’ children. Schools like the bluestocking academy where two girls who had a nervous breakdown and anorexia respectively sat their GCSEs while they were sectioned in a psychiatric unit. (Now that’s what I call a sick note.) Then I thought of an acquaintance and her daughter I had bumped into in the street. As the woman babbled happily about how hard Jessica was working for her Oxford place, I tried not to gape at the girl herself. She looked like she had come out of Belsen; sunken eyes, a beard of white down on her bird face, a tiny coat three sizes too big for her. Jessica looked more likely to be heading for an early grave than Balliol. Was the mother out of her mind? What fever of vicarious ambition possessed her that exam results were more important than her child’s health?


To read the full article, click the following link:

Getting help to the right people at the right time

Yesterday I delivered training to approximately 20 play workers for Nottingham City around the issue of self harm.

I’m Harmless’ CEO, and whilst I used to deliver a lot of training, my role usually nowadays keeps me busy with strategy and fundraising. Today I took a step back to my roots, giving a whistle stop workshop about the main issues to a group of really engaged delegates.

It’s hard in a workshop to cover enough of the information that a workforce need to know to feel more confident. But training, delivered the right way can inspire change. That is… After all… Why we do what we do. We believe in change. We want to encourage our work forces to feel confident to talk about self harm, to know what to say and how to say it and to ensure that come what may, they can make a difference to people’s lives.

The issue that came out of today’s training, loud and clear, was that policies and systems often get in the way of a good, honest and compassionate conversation with young people that self harm. That somehow, with all the risk assessments we have to do, the referrals we have to make, that the very support we’re there to provide can get lost.

So today reminded me of why we do the training the way we do it; why we place people with personal experience at the heart of all that we do and why we fight so hard to ensure that every person who needs help, gets the best possible chance of that help.

Self harm can be a difficult subject for many to talk about, but it doesn’t mean that with the right support and help, and training, we can’t be confident to help people in those situations.

Self Harm among young people in Wales reaches 5 year high

Self-harm among young people in Wales has hit a five-year high, according to new Welsh government figures. More than 1,500 patients aged between 10 and 19 were treated at Welsh hospitals between 2013 and 2014.

Last year, almost four times as many girls as boys were admitted for self-harm treatment in Wales. Mental health charities are calling for more to be done in schools to teach emotional resilience to prevent self-harm.

The Welsh government is due to publish an action plan on self-harming in June – it’s second in six years. Dr Ann John, from Swansea University, who is leading the plan, says an important part of the strategy involves reducing the stigma associated with self-harm.

“The first strategic objective is about raising awareness. It’s about training those people who are priority care providers who first come into contact with people suffering with these issues.”

The plan also recommends developing the school counselling service to include pupils in Year 6 at primary schools and combating bullying.

More than 1,200 girls, compared with about 300 boys, were admitted to Welsh hospitals for self-harming last year.

Psychologists say the reasons for this gender gap are complex.

Some suggest boys do not seek help as easily and they are therefore absent from the figures, while others argue girls find it harder to express anger and are thus more prone to self-harm.

A recent education review recommended that health and well-being be put at the centre of the Welsh curriculum.

Katie Dalton, from mental health charity Gofal, said she would like to see this idea taken seriously.

“Pupils need to know that there are support systems out there and that it is alright to feel unwell with their emotions and mental health and it’s OK to talk to people,” she added.

Experts agree the reasons for the rise in self harm are complex.

A Welsh government spokeswoman said: “National Institute for Health and Care Excellence quality standards, which changed in June 2013, recommend that all children under 16 are assessed differently following self-harm.

“It is not possible to be certain whether the increase in admissions identifies a real increase in the behaviour of children and young people or reflects a change in clinical practice and more decisions being made to admit children for detailed assessments.

“We expect all children to receive safe services to meet their clinical and emotional needs following any episode of self-harm.”


The full article can be found at:

Harmless and The Tomorrow Project would like to invite you to contribute to our blog

Our blog is important to us because it helps us to convey a range of issues around self harm and suicide to the public. It helps us reach people in distress and promote better understanding about these issues amongst our readers.

It helps us tell you about our work, upcoming events, dispel myths and offer advice. But we also want it to challenge stigma and to offer real stories about self harm and recovery so that people reading this can feel connected to what we do and who we help.

If you would like to write a blog for us about your experiences, then you can submit this to with the title ‘blog post’. In your email, please tell us what name you would like us to use for you. You can say as little about your identity as you want.

The blog should be about 200 -300 words in length and shouldn’t be graphic in any way, but should offer the reader an insight into your experiences that might help them relate to self harm, distress, or suicide. The blog could be about what you’ve felt or experienced, what’s helped, or not helped… What needs to change, or what the stigma around these issues has been for you.

It is vital to us that we represent your voice and your experiences, so if you feel you can contribute to this blog, please do.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Harmless self harm drop in tomorrow

Harmless are holding another young person drop in session.

This drop in will be open to all young people aged up to 21 years:

The Drop in will be held on Wednesday 27th May at 10 – 11am

Our trained therapist will be on hand to offer information or advice about any concerns you may have about self harm.

If you have any concerns about someone such as a family member, friend or a colleague, then please feel free to join us, you will be assured of a friendly welcome.

The next adult drop in session will be held on Wednesday 3rd June from 3:30 – 4:30pm. This will be open to all adults aged 18 and over.

All drop in sessions will take place at the Nottingham Community and Voluntary Service Building, & Mansfield Road, Nottingham, NG1 3FB (Opposite House of Fraser)

If you have trouble finding us please call on 0115 934 8445 or email us at

Harmless Self Harm Drop-in Service

Harmless are pleased to announce the increase of their drop in service.

We will be offering two drop in sessions per month, one for adults and a separate one your young people.

Our next young person drop in session will be:

Wednesday April 29th at 15.30 – 16.30 – young person aged up to 21 years.

Our trained therapist will be on hand to offer information or advice about any concerns you may have about self harm.

If you have any concerns about someone such as a family member, friend or a colleague, then please feel free to join us, you will be assured of a friendly welcome.

All drop in sessions will take place at the Nottingham Community and Voluntary Service Building, & Mansfield Road, Nottingham, NG1 3FB (Opposite House of Fraser)

If you have trouble finding us please call on 0115 934 8445 or email us at

Self Harm Drop In Sessions

Harmless will be offering their bi-monthly drop in sessions.

Our next drop in session will be:

Wednesday 1st April – 15.30 -16.30 – Young Person aged up to 21 years.  

Drop in services are run by trained therapists who are on hand to offer a friendly face and provide information about our self harm services.

If you know of anyone who self harms or you have any concerns about someone such as a family member or colleagues please feel free to join us.

If you would like more information about our services in general please feel free to join us.

Our drop in session are held at Nottingham Community and Voluntary Centre on Mansfield Road (opposite House of Fraser).

If you have trouble finding us please call on 0115 8348445 (admin line only) or email us at

In the news: The number of cases of young boys being admitted to A&E for self-harming is at a five-year high, new figures reveal.

Emergency admissions of boys aged 10 to 14 have soared by 30 per cent over the past five years.

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) said A&E admissions had increased from 454 in 2009 to 2010, to 659 in 2013 to 2014.

And the number of cases of girls aged 10 to 14 self-harming has also increased dramatically, nearly doubling from 3,090 in 2009 to 2010 to 5,955 in 2013 to 2014.

Self-harm can include cutting, burning and intentional self-poisoning. The HSCIC said the figures related to the number of admissions, rather than individual patients, and could include individuals who have gone to hospital many times.

Campaigners say bullying, stress at school and sexual pressure is driving young people to self-harm. Boys were also more likely than girls to punch or hit themselves, which some hospitals may not categorise as self-harm, campaigners added.

‘Future anxiety’

While the trend has historically been seen as more common in girls, it is increasing in boys too. Lucy Russell, director of campaigns at the charity YoungMinds, says boys were “under a lot of pressure in the modern age” with potential triggers including family breakdown, a 24/7 digital culture and anxiety over future prospects.

“There is a lot of family breakdown, there are addiction issues in families, poverty issues, there is a lot of stress at school in terms of having to perform and pass exams, there’s bullying, 24/7 online culture, sexual pressures, issues around body image and, really, in terms of the future, what are young people going to do in the future?”

And the trend is believed to run further. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report due to be released next year is expected to show the number of teenagers who have self-harmed has tripled over the last decade in England.


Date: 12th December 2014

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