If schools are to help tackle self-harming behaviours, says the final Report of the National Inquiry into Self-Harm among Young People, they need to ensure that young people have opportunities to talk about their fears and anxieties.

Response to pressure Research shows that one in 15 young people have self-harmed, ‘as a response to the pressures of growing up in an increasingly complex and challenging world.’

Currently, says Inquiry chair Catherine McLoughlin, ‘there is almost universal misunderstanding about self-harm amongst those in closest contact with young people. This results in a very poor response when a young person finally finds the courage to tell someone that they need help.’

Reasons given
Among the reasons given by young people for self-harming behaviour were:

  • being bullied at school
  • stress and worry around academic performance
  • difficulties associated with sexuality
  • problems to do with race, culture or religion
  • low self-esteem
  • feelings of rejection.

Peer support A key finding was that young people prefer to turn to other young people for support. ‘Young people told the Inquiry that often all they want is to be able to talk to someone who will listen and respect them, not specifically about self-harm but about problems and issues in their daily lives.’ ‘Many young people told the Inquiry that it helps tremendously to know that they are not the only young person in the world who has problems in day-to-day life and deals with these through self-harm.’

Truth Hurts: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Self-Harm among Young People can be downloaded from www.selfharmuk.org.

This article first appeared in Raising Achievement Update – May 2006