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New research ‘talking self-harm’ lifts lid on hidden despair

23rd October 2012


– Pioneering ‘talking self-harm’ research report lifts lid on hidden despair –

    3 in 4 young people don’t know where to turn to talk about self-harm
    A third of parents would not seek professional help if their child was self-harming
    Almost half GPs feel that they don’t understand young people who self-harm and their motivations
    2 in 3 teachers don’t know what to say to young people who self-harm

    As self-harm inpatient admissions have increased by 68% over the last ten years new research reveals that over three quarters of young people don’t know where to turn to talk about self-harm.

    In the most comprehensive research undertaken in the UK into perceptions of self-harm amongst young people, parents, GPs and teachers, all respondents agreed that self-harm is more concerning than drug use, binge drinking, bullying and gangs.

    The research report ‘talking self-harm’, was conducted by Cello’s CSR programme ‘Talking Taboos’ in partnership with YoungMinds, the UK’s leading children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing charity, and integrates the results of advanced qualitative and social media research with a quantitative sample of 2,500 parents, teachers, GPs and young people.

    With one in twelve children and young people self-harming in the UK, the report identifies:

    There is a major gap in support for GPs, parents and teachers as they attempt to understand and deal with the increasing numbers of young people self-harming

    Almost half of GPs feel that they don’t understand young people who self-harm and their motivations. Three in five are worried about what language to use, while over eight out of ten claim they have not had the necessary training specific to self-harm

    Most parents (78 per cent) are afraid to provide the necessary support when confronted with the problem, despite believing that there needs to be more discussion about self-harm. Furthermore, a third of parents would not seek professional help if their child was self-harming over fears of letting the ‘issue out of the home’

    Many teachers feel unequipped to deal with the issue of self-harm and are much less comfortable discussing self-harm compared to other risky behaviours. Only one in three teachers believe that they are covering self-harm in lessons despite the fact that 97 percent of young people believing self-harm should be addressed in school

    Only one in ten young people are comfortable seeking self-harm advice from teachers, parents or GPs, whereas over half would go online despite only one in five thinking that’s where they should be going

    In response to the findings, YoungMinds has put together a set of recommendations for parents, teachers, peers and health professionals on how to best identify and support at-risk and self-harming teens.

    Lucie Russell, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Participation at YoungMinds said: “This report should set alarm bells ringing about how we as a society support young people who turn to self-harm. More and more young people are self-harming as a coping mechanism and parents and professionals are very frightened about how to respond.

    “Young people often talk for the first time about self-harm to teachers, parents and GPs. It is vital that we increase the knowledge and capability of parents and professionals so that they are able to support the thousands of young people who are suffering intense internal pain that’s manifested externally.”

    Vincent Nolan, Group Chairman Cello Consumer Research said: ‘Self-harm is an issue that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. With Cello’s Talking Taboos ‘talking self-harm’ report we have been able to get this subject out in the open, in the hope of exploding the long standing myths and preconceptions which still exist about young people and self-harm.

    “Young people need to access help and our research makes it clear that this is not happening. The majority of young people don’t know where to seek help and even when they do, professionals like GPs and teachers don’t know how to support them. We want the ‘talking self-harm’ report to kick-start a discussion about how we can influence change to better support young people, making sure they get the help they desperately need.”

    Professor Sue Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “This report is a brave and timely call to action for us to set aside the rhetoric about self-harm. It challenges all professionals and parents that the best way to deal with a concern is to take decisive action in partnership with young people.

    “As a child and adolescent psychiatrist about to undertake further research in this area, I recognise that increasing awareness and understanding of self-harm is very important. But we must also ensure that child and adolescent mental health services are properly resourced so they can provide the kind of specialist support that helps young people to recover.”

    The full report is available at – [1.6MB].

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