The difference between suicide and deliberate self-harm is not as clear as we would like it. Deliberate self-harm can be common pre-cursor to suicide and children and young people who deliberately self-harm may kill themselves by accident. Although completed suicide is a rare occurrence, episodes of self-harm and suicidal behaviour are not. Early intervention can help to address underlying problems that can lead to such behaviour. Many people who self-harm do not come to the attention of health services and when they do, many do not return or cannot be followed up. Those who do receive services often describe contact as being characterised by ignorance, negative attitudes and sometimes punitive behaviour by professionals towards people who self-harm. As the risk of suicide is considerably higher among people who have self-harmed it is crucial that practitioners are best equipped to give the most helpful initial response in such circumstances.
Self-harm is always a sign of emotional distress and poorly developed coping skills. Whilst it is ultimately damaging and may be dangerous, for many people it provides a method for coping with life. Taking away a person’s means of self-harm can increase the emotional distress and make the situation worse.
Definitions of Self-Harm and Suicide
• Self-harm is self –harm without suicidal intent, resulting in non-fatal injury
• Attempted suicide is self-harm with intent to take like, resulting in non-fatal injury
• Suicide is self-harm resulting in death Mental Health Foundation 2003
Research indicates that 1 in 15 young people in Britain have harmed themselves. This probably means that there are probably two people in every secondary school classroom who have done it at some time. Most young people who harm themselves are between 11 and 25 years. Most people start at around 12 years of age but some children as young as 7 have been known to do it. Although there are no typical groups of people who self-harm, about four times as many girls as boys do it. When boys do self harm they may hit themselves or break their own bones to make it look as if they have been involved in a fight or been attacked.
The groups of children and young people who may be more vulnerable to self-harm can include:
• Young people in residential settings such as the armed services,prison, sheltered housing, hostels and boarding schools
• Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people
• Young Asian women (one study found that the suicide rate in women aged 16–24 years was three times higher in women of Asian origin than in white British women)
• Young people with learning disabilities
• Young people with existing mental health problems
• Young people with substance misuse problems
• Vulnerable young people who miss appointments and go off the radar.
There are many types of self-harm but these can include:
• Banging head and other body parts against walls
• Swallowing things that are not edible
• Inserting objects into the body
• Scratching, picking or tearing at skin causing sores and scarring
For more information on how we can help you resolve self harming emotional issues call us at Wise Blue Owl Thearpy Centre 01784 392449
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