Coping with self-harm: a guide for parents and carers 

White curve
Managing injuries from self-harm

If your child has self-harmed and you are concerned about their physical wellbeing (e.g., a wound that is too deep to manage at home or other serious injuries; they have taken an overdose) you should seek emergency medical help through your local Accident and Emergency service.

There are a number of practical steps that you can take as a parent or carer to protect your child if they have harmed themselves.

Overdoses

  • Get your child to an A&E department as soon as possible
  • Try to find out what they have taken in advance, if you can, and tell medical staff upon arrival
  • If your child won’t tell you, look around for empty pill bottles or blister packs. This will help medical staff to give your child the most appropriate care possible.

Cuts and wounds

  • Apply pressure to bleeding cuts using a bandage or towel (a tea towel may be less likely to stick to the wound)
  • Clean the wound under running tap water and apply a sterile adhesive dressing
  • If the wound has become infected (for example: swelling, pus forming or spreading redness), encourage your child to seek medical help as soon as possible.

Burns

  • Cool with cold water for 10 to 30 minutes, then cover with cling film
  • Don’t use ice or any creams or greasy substances such as butter
  • For more information on handling wounds and burns, and when to see a doctor, visit the NHS website or ring NHS Direct on 111.

Scars

  • If your child has scars they are embarrassed about, you can look into commercial products that may help them fade
  • Scars can also be covered up by makeup
  • Remind and reassure your child that most scars will eventually fade with time.
I went into practical mode. Maybe practical mode was easier to deal with than emotional mode. So you buy your antiseptic and you buy your cotton wool and you look after the cuts because that’s the easy bit.

HealthTalk.org parent interview

 

What parents can do to help >

 

This content has been adapted from “Coping with self-harm, a Guide for Parents and Carers, produced by University of Oxford Centre for Suicide Research in association with:

Young Minds

Royal College of Nursing

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Royal College of General Practitioners

and funded by the National Institute for Health Research

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