Self Harm Support
The WISH Centre supports young people who self harm through a combination of peer support programmes, counselling, youth projects and individual support plans and campaigning. The work we do has been developed with young people who self harm and we understand that part of a healing journey involves finding a voice in the public domain which is why we also have a focus on media and awareness raising projects.
Frequently Asked Question’s
Self harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. Whilst normally associated with cutting, self harm can take many forms:
• Self-Injury – Cutting, swallowing objects, insertion of foreign objects into body, burning, stabbing.
• Self-Poisoning – Overdosing with medicines, swallowing poisonous substance.
Research suggests that over 1 in 9 teenagers are self harming (Nat Inquiry 2006), and some recent reports suggest the figure is as high as 1 in 5 (Affinity for NHS 2008). As nearly 50% of self harmers do so secretly, this is clearly the tip of the iceberg.
7 out of 10 self harmers in the UK are female. However, evidence suggests that the rates of boys who are self harming has doubled in the past decade and is on the increase.
There is no typical self harmer. The only commonality is the level of personal distress they are facing and the need for a coping or survival strategy in the face of terrible secrets or pain that cannot be spoken.
Common reasons for a young person self harming include family breakdown, experiencing family violence or sexual violence, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, entering or leaving care, living with some form of oppression. There are many other reasons, and triggers such as bullying or difficult relationships, gender and sexuality issues, identity problems may lead to self harm or an increase in using self harm as a way of coping.
In the States, most young people who self harm are assumed to be victims of child abuse. While there are very strong links between self harm and child sexual, emotional or physical abuse in the UK, we have seen that other causes may be family attachments or displacements, one or a series of traumatic incidents, difficulties with self-esteem, identity and relationships.
Self harm may be triggered under stressful circumstances such as being bullied, peer or school pressure, family divorce etc.
Self harm is not attention seeking. It is drawing attention to the pain inside.
It is a presenting symptom that needs to be supported but the causes should be uncovered.
Self harm is a way of coping. Any attempts to coerce a young person to stop self harming, and therefore take away their means of coping without appropriate support in place, may lead to an increase in any suicide ideation.
Self Harm is not attempted suicide although there are links – over 50% of suicides of young people last year were shown to have self harmed in the previous year.
Self Harm is a coping or survival strategy. Some people self harm to calm themselves when distressed – a release where physical pain blocks the emotional pain. Others self harm to stop themselves from disassociating or feeling numb – its helps them to feel again and when they see blood it affirms they are alive.
Self harm serves it purpose and as a result is highly addictive both physically, psychologically and behaviourally. It is now recognised that classic mental health, medical or alternative treatments do not impact effectively on self harm.
The evidence base suggests that a combination of young person focused environments with a mix of peer mentoring and support, person centred therapy and support plans have the greatest impact. This is how we work at WISH and are also able to offer opportunities for talent and skills development.
We believe that self harmers need an integrated approach to support and recovery, working with the whole person to build confidence, control, self esteem, new skills and understanding. Self harmers tell us they also need something to replace their self harm. This is an individual journey.
WISH are working with local schools to develop guidelines for dealing with self harm in the school setting. We are able to provide tailored training and awareness sessions for teachers and pupils, including PSHE.
WISH is exploring funding to develop a support programme for families and carers that is focused both on awareness of and prevention of self harm and on supporting the young self harmer in their recovery.
Self Injury And Related Issues (SIARI) – This organisation aims to raise awareness about self-injury and help empower those who self-injure, family members and professionals. www.siari.co.uk
NICE- Self-harm (Clinical Guidance 16) – Covers the short-term treatment and management of self-harm. www.nice.org.uk/cg16
Book T. Alderman (1997) The Scarred Soul. Understanding & Ending Self-Inflicted Violence. A Self Help Guide. New Harbinger Publications. ISBN 1-57224-079-2