If you are concerned about a 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 someone 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.
How should I react when a child self-harms?
Self-harm can be a way that some children and young people cope with emotional distress or pain, the physical pain can temporarily distract from the feelings they are experiencing.
There are also people who self-harm to regain a sense of control over their emotions or situations where they feel overwhelmed or helpless and some who self-harm due to body image issues to alter their bodies in some way e.g. through undereating/overeating/throwing up.
The reasons why a child or young person may self-harm can be complex and sometimes hard for them to articulate why they are doing it. It is so important that if a child wants to talk to you, as a professional, about their self-harm, the main thing to do is listen and offer support.
You might find these videos from YoungMinds, Childline and SHARP Nottingham helpful to watch:
Should I learn about self-harm?
It may be useful for your team to undertake training to better understand and respond to self-harm.
Harmless can provide training and resources at Training - Harmless.
BeUNotts also provide some training around self-harm and suicidal ideation: Training - Be U Support | Free Mental Health Service for Children and Young People.
What can I do as a professional?
- Learn about self-harm- educating yourself about the causes, signs and interventions will help you respond effectively and best support children and young people.
- Build strong relationships and trust – developing trusting relationships with pupils/service users by showing empathy, active listening, and genuine concern. Make sure they know you are there to help, listen, support and signpost where appropriate.
- Encourage professional help – listen to them and explore where to seek professional help. You might help them through a phone appointment or give them the confidence to use an online counselling forum.
- Take care of your own wellbeing – supporting pupils with self-harm can feel overwhelming, ensure you communicating with your schools safeguarding team and mental health professionals where needed.