If you suspect or become aware that a young person is self harming, a prompt response is essential.
If a child or young person has injured themselves / taken an overdose this will need immediate first aid assessment.
• Can the injuries be safely managed in school?
• Does the child need to see a health professional?
• Does the child need an emergency response? Call 999
Responding in a non-judgemental and calm way to any disclosure or discovery of self-harm is vital. Young People often feel embarrassed and ashamed and can be reluctant to talk about the issue.
The young person does not need you to have immediate solutions – being listened to and feeling able to share their distress is an important first step.
Safeguarding the young person’s physical and emotional wellbeing is paramount. Share what you know with the designated safeguarding lead, follow policy and seek advice as necessary to ensure safety.
The young person may be scared of others finding out about the self harm. Be clear about the confidentiality you can offer from the outset – the young person should know that if you are concerned about their safety you have an obligation to share with appropriate others.
Sharing with Others
If you do feel it is necessary to tell others, including their parents, talk this through with the young person and plan how you will manage this together.
If at all possible parents and carers should be put in the picture as soon as possible- and it should happen as long as it does not increase risk e.g. where there has been disclosure of abuse.
The young person may feel very worried about this; letting them share some control of how this happens can help make it easier.
Support the young person and their family to seek medical assessment – either by attending the GP or A&E if they have wounds that need attention or are voicing suicidal thoughts.
This will also allow the young person to be referred for the appropriate level of mental health support.
Support offered in school should not take the place of specialist support.
There are lots of resources and materials online that can help you offer ongoing support to the young person. It might be helpful to:
• Allow time and space with a trusted adult to talk about thoughts and feelings.
• Encourage them to keep a journal to help them track their thoughts of self harm, and recognise triggers and patterns.
• Help them to develop a safety plan with coping strategies to help them when the urge to harm is strong – this might include distraction or relaxation techniques.
• Know what to do if they have harmed themselves – including who they will tell and how they will get help.
Be mindful of the needs of the young person’s support group who may need to talk about the worries they have for their friend. It is not unusual for a friendship group to share self harm as a mutual way of displaying distress. They may also need help to manage their feelings in a healthy way.
It is hard to support young people displaying such distress and this can take a toll on your own emotional wellbeing. Use the support network available to you within school from peers and the senior team and ask for additional support if you are struggling.
- NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance on Social and Emotional Wellbeing in Secondary Education
- Nice guidance on Self-harm: short term treatment and management
- Young People who Self-Harm - a guide for school staff
- SHARP - professionals pack for those working with young people who self-harm
- NSCB (Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board) - What to do if you believe a child or young person might be at risk of suicide
- Child friendly safety plan
- Norfolk County Council - My Safety Plan
How Can We Help?
Just One Norfolk Access the health advice website to explore a variety of health issues. This website is consistently being reviewed and updated.
Parent Activation Measure This helps parents think about their knowledge skills and confidence in understanding and supporting their children or unborn babies.
Just One Number Call to speak to a health professional by phoning 0300 300 0123. They will be able to provide initial advice and support and guide next steps with us or signpost you to other more relevant agencies and professionals. It is available 08.00 to 18.00 Monday to Friday and 09.00 to 13.00 on Saturdays
ChatHealth Children and Young people can access us through our text messaging service on 07480635060. They will be able to discuss any health concerns with one of our Practitioners and also be able to request an appointment if they would prefer to meet with us.
Parent Line Parents can access our services by texting our number 07520631590 . This allows them to access the advice and support from a clinician about any health issues affecting their children aged 0-19.
JustOneNorfolk Health Passport app Young people age 16-19 can download this app on apple or android phones. It provides young people age 16-19 with general health information and advice to increase health literacy. It signposts to services and promotes self care. It aims to increase resilience and wellbeing and to find out how to access health services.
Health Unlocked Parents can be signposted to this. It is a carefully monitored online community forum which allows local parents and carers to talk with each other regarding issues affecting their children. This can be accessed through our Just One Norfolk website.
Solihull Parenting Online For our Norfolk parents there is the opportunity to access this free of charge through JustOneNorfolk. It supports parents in understanding their children from 0-19 via 4 modules.
Staff working with children and families will also benefit from this – or they can book to do the two day Solihull Training provided by our service by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org