Self Harm

Self-harm means causing actual harm or omitting to do something, which in turn, may cause harm (such as not taking prescribed medications).

There are many forms of self-harm.

There are many reasons why a young person may self-harm and each occasion of self-harm may have a different trigger or reason. It is important to find out what the 'function' of self harm is. For example, is it to turn emotional pain into something physical? Is it to release frustration or anger? Is it to punish oneself? Is it to try out something they have seen or heard others do? Knowing the purpose or function of self-harm helps with non-medical treatment. 

Here are some signs to look out for;

  • Unexplained cuts, bruises or cigarette burns on the body. These marks could be anywhere on someone’s body.
  • Unexplained blood stains on tissues, sheets or clothing.
  • Keeping themselves fully covered at all times, even in hot weather.
  • Self-loathing and low self-esteem; blaming themselves, thinking they’re not good enough or expressing a wish to punish themselves ; making statements of worthlessness or hopelessness.
  • Becoming very withdrawn and not speaking to others.
  • Unusual weight loss or weight gain, or changes in eating habits. A young person may try to hide this by wearing loose clothing or being secretive about eating.
  • Evidence of vomiting in toilets, wash basins, showers or baths (drains may become blocked).

Steps to take if you think a young person has self-harmed or made a disclosure of self-harm:

  • Protect time and space to listen to them without interruption; think about the setting you are in.
  • Listen calmly, without judgement or rushing to solutions (unless it is an emergency and requires immediate intervention).
  • Validate the emotion, not necessarily the behaviour.
  • Provide information about where or how to access appropriate support.
  • Encourage young people to make safe, informed decisions.
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