Chris Leaman
23 Oct 2012
  • 3 in 4 young people don’t know where to turn to talk about self-harm
  • A third of parents would not seek professional help if their child was self-harming
  • Almost half GPs feel that they don’t understand young people who self-harm and their motivations
  • 2 in 3 teachers don’t know what to say to young people who self-harm

As self-harm inpatient admissions have increased by 68% over the last ten years new research reveals that over three quarters of young people don’t know where to turn to talk about self-harm.

In the most comprehensive research undertaken in the UK into perceptions of self-harm amongst young people, parents, GPs and teachers, all respondents agreed that self-harm is more concerning than drug use, binge drinking, bullying and gangs.

The research report ‘talking self-harm’, was conducted by Cello’s CSR programme ‘Talking Taboos’ in partnership with YoungMinds, the UK’s leading children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing charity, and integrates the results of advanced qualitative and social media research with a quantitative sample of 2,500 parents, teachers, GPs and young people.

With one in twelve children and young people self-harming in the UK, the report identifies:

There is a major gap in support for GPs, parents and teachers as they attempt to understand and deal with the increasing numbers of young people self-harming

Almost half of GPs feel that they don’t understand young people who self-harm and their motivations. Three in five are worried about what language to use, while over eight out of ten claim they have not had the necessary training specific to self-harm

Most parents (78 per cent) are afraid to provide the necessary support when confronted with the problem, despite believing that there needs to be more discussion about self-harm. Furthermore, a third of parents would not seek professional help if their child was self-harming over fears of letting the ‘issue out of the home’

Many teachers feel unequipped to deal with the issue of self-harm and are much less comfortable discussing self-harm compared to other risky behaviours. Only one in three teachers believe that they are covering self-harm in lessons despite the fact that 97 percent of young people believing self-harm should be addressed in school

Only one in ten young people are comfortable seeking self-harm advice from teachers, parents or GPs, whereas over half would go online despite only one in five thinking that’s where they should be going

In response to the findings, YoungMinds has put together a set of recommendations for parents, teachers, peers and health professionals on how to best identify and support at-risk and self-harming teens.

Lucie Russell, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Participation at YoungMinds said: “This report should set alarm bells ringing about how we as a society support young people who turn to self-harm. More and more young people are self-harming as a coping mechanism and parents and professionals are very frightened about how to respond.

“Young people often talk for the first time about self-harm to teachers, parents and GPs. It is vital that we increase the knowledge and capability of parents and professionals so that they are able to support the thousands of young people who are suffering intense internal pain that’s manifested externally.”

Vincent Nolan, Group Chairman Cello Consumer Research said: ‘Self-harm is an issue that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. With Cello’s Talking Taboos ‘talking self-harm’ report we have been able to get this subject out in the open, in the hope of exploding the long standing myths and preconceptions which still exist about young people and self-harm.

“Young people need to access help and our research makes it clear that this is not happening. The majority of young people don’t know where to seek help and even when they do, professionals like GPs and teachers don’t know how to support them. We want the ‘talking self-harm’ report to kick-start a discussion about how we can influence change to better support young people, making sure they get the help they desperately need.”

Professor Sue Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “This report is a brave and timely call to action for us to set aside the rhetoric about self-harm. It challenges all professionals and parents that the best way to deal with a concern is to take decisive action in partnership with young people.

“As a child and adolescent psychiatrist about to undertake further research in this area, I recognise that increasing awareness and understanding of self-harm is very important. But we must also ensure that child and adolescent mental health services are properly resourced so they can provide the kind of specialist support that helps young people to recover.”

The full report is available at

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  • Melanie Lavin
    over 2 years ago

    BCSW run a text and email support service for girls and young women affected by self harm. This anonymous confidential service often feels like a "safer" way for girls to start talking about their self injury and getting the support they need.

  • Anonymous commenter
    over 2 years ago

    It is so important that this kind of work is done, looking at young people and what they think and feel. Most research carried out looking at self harm is only covering adults, yet anyone who works with adults who self harm know they have doing it for some time. I supply training for NHS staff, as a facilitator in STORM self injury and suicide prevention, addressing attitudes is the main issue.

  • Cazbah
    about 2 years ago

    I understand the need to increase the knowledge surrounding and including self harm but statistics make these things worse. If one person reads this that is at a trigger point it really makes them feel less of a person and more of a statistic which is half the problem within the NHS and in the greater public. Self harm is a private thing, I agree that knowledge is power however to those who have these issues have nowhere to go to address them. There are people on waiting lists I know that have had over 8 months for a GP referral. Again I appreciate
    that there are a lot of cases. I have been waiting two months for an appointment with a therapist which is fine but I've had this problem diagnosed sine the age of seven, I am now 24. There are people who can't wait this long. The only action to be taken is vigilance and support. There is nothing to better that, despite what direction it comes from or what form it takes. There is an answer whether you be the sufferer, the family, the loved one the answer is in putting up, being strong, knowing yourself and moving on.

  • Anonymous commenter
    almost 2 years ago

    I'm 13 and know about self harming. The reason young people don't know where to go for help is that they feel like others, especially adults won't understand them, they'll think that they are freaky weirdos with problems. For this reason, many self harmeres don't tell people what they do, due to their fear of being judged about it.

  • Anne
    almost 2 years ago

    I am a parent of a 15 year old girl who has recently started to self harm by cutting her arms, whilst she is the priority and is get professional help, I feel as her mother I have no where to turn too, and I need help and guideance on how to tackle this with her. Surley I cant be the only parent who wants and needs help.

  • Parents' Helpline
    almost 2 years ago

    We are so sorry to hear about the very difficult situation with your daughter. YoungMInds can help. Please contact our parents’ helpline for support. Here are our contact details.

    There are also specialist self-harm organisations who can support you. Here are links to them.

  • Anonymous commenter
    almost 2 years ago

    I am so glad to see that someone is finally addressing this issue. It makes me so mad how many misconceptions there are surrounding self harm and how many people feel unable to confide in someone for fear of stigma or not being taken seriously. As a teenager I used self harm as a coping mechanism and I kept it to myself for years. I had never heard of anyone else doing it and thought I was crazy and that no one would understand. It was the most lonely time of my life and I was consumed by shame and guilt. It makes me so sad to hear how many others are going through the same thing, that they are so alone and have no one to turn to. I think that some kind of educational program in schools would be so beneficial both for students and teachers. It is a mystery to me why most high schools don't run mental health programs when adolescence is the perfect time to learn coping strategies.
    I just want anyone who is going through this to know that you can get through it, and that there are people out there who care about you.

  • Anonymous commenter
    over 1 year ago

    Im sad to say my daughter has been cutting herself and feels so guilty she wanted to kill herself, the school have been very support and cant praise them enough. ive gone behind her back to the drs and helplines, ive told her favorite auntie because she was trying to ignore it, im making her face it but not alone we will get through this together as a family, i think she has forgot how much we love her and what a amazing person she is. stand by them, stand with them and hope theres light at the end of tunnel

  • Liz
    over 1 year ago

    Can you please tell me what BCSW as mentioned in the comment by Melanie Lavin is. I have googled it with no success. Thanks

  • Chris Leaman
    over 1 year ago

    Hi Liz,

    It is this service based in Bristol


    Media and Public Affairs Officer, YoungMinds

  • sarah
    12 months ago

    I am 23, and started self harming as a teenager because I was being badly bullied at school, however when I left school ( early ) and went onto have my children , the self harming eventually got less and less, and I found alternatives to self harming. however year 2013 being 22 , I had an extremely difficult year being diagnosed with several mental health conditions, and after many suicide attempts my self harm was back with an extreme vengeance .... when I was a teenager the injuries I caused to myself were never enough to need medical attention, but helped me get through everyday . recent events that have happened , the self harm has taken a complete turn for the worse , and very often I am in need of stitches.... once being stitched up , I am then left to carry on - although I am under the community mental health team, have a CPN and a specialist team, .... when self harm arrises, it is never addressed as to why I may or may not have done it, nor the varerity .... whilst self harming as a teenager I never had the support of my mum, and always argues over what I was doing. it is lovely to see and hear so many supportive parents wanting the support to help their children . sometimes all they need is someone they can convide in and support them... not judge !!

  • samantha
    11 months ago

    i started self harming by cuts and burns at the age of 17. i never saw anyone for this, never needed the hospital i would stitch up my own skin. i done this till i was 22 when i feel pregnant. my child forced me to turn my life around. however still at 29 years old when i am very upset and emotional my thoughts always return to cutting however i have been able to not do it for 7 years it is annoying that i still have these thoughts like an addiction wishing to return :(

  • kelly
    8 months ago

    Hi my daughter is 13 she self harms . I work full time and am thinking about giving up work to look after her full time I'm a single parent and don't know what help I wud get in benefits does anybody have any advice please

  • Eba
    8 months ago

    I'm owing an essay at school on this anyone got any comments that I can include even though I am a self harmed myself I also need an outside perspective the name of the essay is should teenage self hammers get more help

  • Anonymous commenter
    7 months ago

    I started selfharming at the age of 15 and I had no one tot turn to either this was because I was so afraid of being judged I always thought that my reason for self harming wasn't good enough for people and I thought they would just think I was attention seeking after a while my friends found out what I was doing and some supported me but others didn't. The most important thing when finding out a family or friend is to be there for them help and support them but please don't judge them bc this will make it worse. One of the reasons for teens selfharming is stress, abuse, family breakup and bullying. To prevent and help them from selfharming you must find out what triggered it and then support them.

  • Anonymous commenter
    3 months ago

    When I happened to see the scars on my daughter's legs I was numb with shock, not knowing how to react. At 15 she had hidden the cutting habit from me for over a year. Still trying to find out what caused the habit to start. She says she does not remember. When I arranged a visit to the school nurse to confront the problem, my daughter denied self-harming. Waiting list for CAMHS is too long so what is a mother supposed to do? It is distressing for me to find out my daughter has been suffering panicky trapped feelings and I have not been able to help her.

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