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Self Harm

Over the past decade the number of crisis cases where young people have self harmed has risen sharply.

Is Self Harm Common?

A new figure out this week from the Children’s Society suggests that nearly a quarter of 14 year old girls and 10% of boys self harm.


What is Self Harm?

Put simply self harm is hurting yourself when your emotions are so strong that they need to be let out. Everyone has a different way of dealing with their emotions and for many young people this feels like the only way to express them. When we think about self harm, cutting usually comes to mind, but young people can use a variety of methods to express their emotions. These can include:

  • burning, punching or hitting themselves,
  • poisoning through medications,
  • drugs or toxic chemicals, misusing alcohol or drugs,
  • deliberately starving themselves,
  • excessive exercising.

What are the Causes of Self Harm?

In surveys conducted by ChildLine, YoungMinds, Youth Net/ Get Connected and Self Harm UK, it was found that parents often thought that self harm was because of family breakdown, abuse and bullying. However, the Children’s Society’s recent report has shown that young people self harm because they’re concerned about their appearance and gender stereotypes. The NSPCC’s previous report has shown that the causes of self harm were also related to depression, bullying, pressure at school, grieving and relationship problems with family and friends.

Is Self Harm Dangerous?

Unfortunately self harm can be very dangerous. According to the NHS, 50% of people who kill themselves have a history of self harm. It is classed as being on the suicide spectrum, although many young people don’t intend to kill themselves.

Who to Talk To….

The surveys above showed that young people actually prefer to talk to their friends or an organisation rather than a GP or family member. Below is a list of great organisations who can offer support.

Papyrus: A charity for the prevention of suicide in young people between 16 and 25.

Samaritans: a 24/7 charity that offers a helpline for those struggling with anxiety or depression.

Harmless: a charity focusing on supporting people who self harm

Self Harm UK is a charity offering support and advice to young people who self harm.


What Can You Do?

It can be tricky to know what to do in this situation, especially when young people generally prefer to talk to friends or an organisation about it. Feelings of shame, anger, guilt, frustration or upset that your is child self harming is natural. Here are some things that can really help:

  • Ask your child how they’re feeling.
  • Listen.
  • Ask if they would like you to help them.
  • It’s ok to keep boundaries and discipline. This helps to keep a sense of normality.
  • Try and avoid policing them as this can increase self harming behaviours.
  • Contact your GP for professional advice.
  • A great app to help people manage self harming behaviour is called calm harm and was developed by a consultant clinical psychologist.

Managing Self Harm.

CBT is recommended by NICE as the therapy to support people who self harm. It works by acknowledging emotions and how they affect your child. In CBT, we explore their emotions and how they affect them. We work to nurture your child’s feelings and develop healthy new strategies to express them including ways to tolerate distress. We learn to recognise unhelpful thoughts and learn useful skills to challenge them. We recognise the sensations that occur in your child’s body when they start to feel overwhelmed. This can act as a key sign that things are deteriorating and your child can nip the process in the bud before things become overwhelming. They learn to nurture and look after themselves using the resources around them. CBT is about learning life long skills that will help your son or daughter in the future so that they can cope with whatever stressors and life events come their way.

If you would like more information about self harm or if you know someone who is self harming and would benefit from CBT, please get in touch. 0161 8831156.

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