If you are concerned about your child doing something to harm themselves right now you should call 999 immediately.
You can also phone 0808 196 3779, the Nottinghamshire Mental Health Crisis Line, 24/7. SHOUT: is a free, confidential, anonymous text support service for anyone struggling to cope. Available 24/7. Text NOTTS to 85258
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is when somebody hurts themselves intentionally, causing injury to their physical body or wellbeing. The reasons why your child may do this may differ from individual to individual. The way in which people self-harm can be different too, these can include:
- Swallowing harmful substances
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Picking at wounds or scabs to delay wound healing
- Not eating or overeating
- Forcing themselves to throw up
- Spending all their time on addictive behaviours like gambling, gaming or social media
- Engaging in risky behaviours including fights or risky sexual behaviour
- Engaging in self-sabotaging behaviours that harm emotional or physical wellbeing.
Your child or a child in your care may self-harm as harm as a way of dealing with difficult emotions or to supress upsetting experiences which may be happening now or have happened in the past. It can be extremely distressing and overwhelming to think of your child hurting themselves and as self-harm is shrouded in secrecy, it can be hard to notice the signs too.
Things to look out for:
- Physical signs – unexplained cuts, bruises, burns or scratches. These marks are commonly found on the arms, legs or wrists.
- Emotional changes – look for sudden changes in mood such as anger outbursts, intense sadness or low self esteem.
- Wearing long sleeve clothing or trousers even in warm weather
- Isolation and withdrawal – notice if your child is spending more time alone than usual, avoiding social gatherings and activities.
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns – notice if your child is sleeping a lot less or longer than usual, weight loss or weight gain or any unusual food behaviours.
You might find these videos from YoungMinds, Childline and SHARP Nottingham helpful to watch:
What can I do to help?
- Stay calm and initiate an open and non-judgemental conversation – Find a comfortable and private place to talk to your child. Talk to them about what your concerns are, that you love them and are there to support them. Encourage them to share their feelings and experiences whilst explaining that you are willing to have on-going conversations about this if need some space to think. Explain you know it’s a really difficult subject to talk about but that you are there to talk when they need to.
- Listen – Listen to your child without interruption, judgment or anger. Let them know that you are there to support in any way you can. It can sometimes feel really hard not to ask lots of questions, especially ‘why’ and some parents may feel defensive if conversation leads to shared emotional experiences. Try to avoid anger or any blaming/shaming and focus on finding heathier coping strategies.
- Speak with them about removing or securing harmful objects - take steps to discuss with your child about their safety and about taking away the thing they may self harm with. This can be a difficult question to ask so please seek professional help if you don’t feel confident.
- Involve other trusted adults – Discuss with your child about speaking with other trusted adults such as teachers, school pastoral staff and other adult family members. This can help create a supportive network for your child to ensure their safety.
- Seek professional help – Check out the Get Help Now links on this page to find professional help. Self harm is often a long term struggle so it’s important to ensure you have professional support throughout this process.