Self-harm is defined as deliberately causing harm to oneself either by causing a physical injury, by putting oneself in dangerous situations and/or self-neglect. (NICE, 2004)
Self-harm is not about seeking attention. It is a sign of personal distress. The nature and meaning of self-harm, however, varies greatly from person to person. In addition, the reason a person harms him or herself may be different on each occasion. 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 and distress. A person will often struggle with difficulties for some time before they self-harm.
These include relationship problems with partners, friends or family; pressures e.g. school work and exams, sporting performance, family issues; bullying; feeling bad about one’s self (guilt, shame, worthlessness); physical, emotional or sexual abuse and feeling depressed.
If a young person discloses that they are self-harming, listen to them calmly without judgement. If the wounds are fresh, seek first aid treatment and assessment. Where parents/carers are aware of such instances, we would strongly recommend that school is informed.
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.
If you are concerned that your child has suicidal thoughts, contact Papyrus via its Hopeline 0800 068 4141.
If the situation is urgent, take your child to Accident and Emergency.