Self-harm guidance to include advice for schools in UK

London – Staff in schools and prisons in England and Wales are for the first time to be included in draft guidance on how to identify people who have self-harmed.

The experts behind it said everyone was responsible for tackling the growing problem of self-harm – not just mental health professionals.

A mental health charity said the guidance would empower teachers to support young people.

It warned that more mental health support teams in schools were needed.

These are the first new guidelines on self-harm produced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for 11 years, and a public consultation on the guidance will run until March 1.

Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body to try to cope with emotional distress or to feel in control, but there are many reasons why people do it.

One in five girls and one in ten boys aged between 17 and 19 have self-harmed or attempted suicide, according to a major survey from 2017. And among 11 to 16-year-olds, seven per cent of girls and more than three per cent of boys are affected – with those with mental disorders more likely to have self-harmed.

But experts say the figures could be an underestimate because few go to hospital and the problem is often hidden.

Elsa Arnold, 20, from east London, was 15 when she started self-harming after being bullied at school.

“I really struggled with being a teenager. It was the combination of the pressure at school, fitting in and constantly being picked on,” she says.

Her school referred her to adolescent mental health services but she was refused help for not being unwell enough, before she got even worse.

“You don’t believe you deserve help anyway and when you’re not given it, you just feel knocked down.”

She developed depression and anxiety and, four months later, was referred again. Eventually she opted for private treatment.

Young people say they are often told they have to reach crisis point before they can qualify for support, but Elsa says this is “so wrong”.

“Better support would have changed my whole mental health story as a teenager,” she says.

Elsa is now at university, and says she doesn’t feel as trapped or as misunderstood as she was at school. She is campaigning for funding for support hubs for 11 to 25-year-olds across England, which offer support to young people when their mental health problems first emerge. (BBC)

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