Parent and Carer – Self Harm – Support Information
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is behaviour that is done deliberately to harm oneself. At least 10% of adolescents report having self-harmed. Self-harm can include, for example:
- taking an overdose
- hitting or bruising
- intentionally taking too little or too much medication
- attempted suicide
Although some people who self-harm may be suicidal, self-harm is often used as a way of managing difficult emotions without being a suicide attempt. However, self-harming can result in accidental death.
How to support your child
- Have a conversation, but don’t bring up self-harm straight away
- You could organise this around another activity, like a walk or drive
- Ask if anything is worrying them and how they are feeling
- Let them know you are not judging them or putting them down, and that you love them and that will not change
- Show that you are prepared to listen to what your child has to say
- If your child does not want to talk, see if they will write you a note, email or text message about how they feel
- Ask if they would rather speak to someone else (e.g., a GP, counsellor or helpline)
- If your child is able to be open about their self-harm, try to help them work out feelings and situations that may trigger it
- Try to think together of ways to handle strong feelings that don’t involve self-harm
- Help them think through their problems and see possible solutions
- Encourage them to think about the long view and how things may change in the future
Looking after yourself and other family members
How can I get support?
If you know someone who talks about or has tried suicide, you might feel upset, frustrated, confused or scared. These are all normal responses.
Supporting a person who is suicidal is likely to be a stressful time in your life, and a time when you are likely to need support yourself. You could:
- take some time out to concentrate on yourself,
- talk to friends and family,
- talk to someone on an emotional support helpline (see our useful contacts),
- talk to your own doctor,
- find and join a local support group for carers, friends and family.
You can tell the person you care for about services which are available, and use these services if you want to talk to someone about how you are feeling (see www.safeguardingchildren.co.uk/shsip/parents-and-carers-services).