Supporting with self-harm in schools

Self-Harm Support in Schools

pexels-photo-594421.jpegWhat is self-harm?

Self-harm is the act of deliberately or intentionally hurting oneself. This is often caused by other mental health and wellbeing issues, such a stress, anxiety or depression; although there can be a variety of reasons why a young person would self-harm. It is important to remember that each person is different, and we need to avoid making any assumptions. It may be caused due to a need to get the pain out in some way. It is estimated that in the UK, 1 in 5 fifteen-year olds have self-harmed in some way (HSBC, 20).

Myths about Self-Harm

Some commonly-held, but inaccurate beliefs about self-harming behaviour are:

  • They are suicidal
  • It is attention seeking
  • Self-harm is only when you cut yourself
  • They could choose to stop at any point.


The first thing to do in schools if you know a young person or child is self-harming would be to make a referral to CAMHs for additional mental health support. If the young person or child is in immediate danger, you should always call emergency services.

If a child or young person you know or are working with is self-harming, it is important to remain calm. It is also important not to be judgemental and to be understanding. It is often difficult for those who self-harm to explain this to others, so becoming upset or angry will most likely cause them more emotional distress. It may not be appropriate or helpful just to tell the young person to stop, but instead try and ensure they are safe. Always accept that what the young person tells you is their reality, even if it might not make sense to you. Listening non-judgementally is an important skill in supporting any mental health difficulties – click here to download our free 1-page guide to non-judgemental listening skills.

Long term support for self-harm is different for every individual, as there may be other factors to consider. It may include counselling, medication or a combination of treatments.




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