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Updated : August 1, 2022 3 mins read

Self harm | Support for professionals

Updated : August 1, 2022 3 mins read

Article Self-harm

A study in the US highlighted that children whose parents are in the military were more likely to experience anxiety, depression and show aggressive behaviours compared to their non-military peers. For young people experiencing mental health difficulties or troubled thoughts and feelings, self harm can be a common coping strategy.

There is a huge amount of stigma associated with self harm, which is why many people don’t come forward for help or support.

If you are working with a young person who you think is self harming, it is important to recognise that they are using self harm to try and feel better and understand how and why they are feeling as they do.

Signs a young person might be self harming

Research has shown that there are some clear themes experienced by people who self harm. Below are these themes and how this might look like when you’re working with a young person who is self harming.

Theme What you might see
Distressing emotions A young person who has lost a close friend or relative to suicide
Sense of isolation A young person who is not mixing with their usual friends or not taking part in activities they normal enjoy
Exposure to self harm A young person who has parents with mental health issues who coping using self harm themselves
Relationship difficulties A young person who runs away from home a lot, who is in care or has turbulent parental relationships
Social comparison A young person who has changed the way they act or look or spends a lot of time on social media
School/ Work difficulties A young person who drops in their academic performance, gets expelled from school or finds it hard to keep a job

There are also other signs that a young person might be self harming which you can find on our pages Signs your child might be self harming and Types of self harm

Supporting a young person who is self harming

Because there are so many different reasons why someone might self harm, there is not a one size fits all approach to support a young person to stop.

The most important thing is to involve the young person fully in decisions about new strategies to try and what treatment options to explore. What works for one person is not guaranteed to work for the next.

The main aim of self help strategies is to equip the young person with safer, more positive ways of dealing with distressing thoughts and feelings. It is also important to address the underlying issues which have led to the young person self harming.

Talking therapies have been shown to be one of the most effective ways to help young people and adults work through the cause of their distress and find alternative ways of managing their thoughts and feelings.

Things you can do to support a young person who is self harming:

  • If they are under a mental health team, ask if they would share any relevant care plans or safety plan
  • Find out the young person ‘s triggers and signs they are struggling
  • Offer them time and space to talk if they find this helpful
  • Make sure that medical assistance is given if you know they have recently self harmed
  • Remain non-judgmental, compassionate and understanding if the young person self harms and tell you
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Never promise a young person that you won’t tell anyone if you’re the first person they have disclosed their self harm to.

How can FCS help a young person with self harm ?

Any young person up to the age of 24 who has a serving parent, reservist or veteran family member can access support from us.

We offer listening spaces where young people can come and share their thoughts and feelings with other young people going through similar experiences.

Get Help now

If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.