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

White curve
When to seek further help

Have you spotted signs that your child is self-harming, and spoken with your child about this? Have you considered practical ways to help your child and explored alternatives to self-harm?

If so, and you remain concerned about your child - particularly if the self-harm or distress increases and you notice problems such as anxiety or low mood - then you should seek further help. Share your concerns with others who can support you and your child.

Visit your GP

Your general practitioner (GP) may be able provide medical guidance and advice to manage the self-harm. The GP may also refer your child to a community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) where an assessment would be done and a plan made for support and treatment. Professional help is also available from school nurses and trained counsellors and therapists.

If your child is reluctant to get help, you can still receive advice from your GP

It may be the case that your child doesn’t acknowledge the risks or is unwilling to speak with a GP. If so, you can still make an appointment for yourself to discuss the situation with a medical professional. It is best to be transparent and do this with your child’s permission.

Admission to hospital

If your child goes to hospital for any reason related to their self-harm, they should be seen by someone who will talk to them about self-harm, assess their mental wellbeing and arrange follow-up where needed. If it is not clear whether this has happened, ask the staff about it.

Possible future problems

Self-harm can be a serious problem and repeated self-harm is common following a first episode.

Depending on the method, self-harm can lead to serious physical damage, including permanent scarring, the medical effects of a dangerous overdose, etc.

Self-harm may be linked to other problems, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders or drug and alcohol use, for which specific treatment may be required. Individuals who have self-harmed are at higher risk of suicide than other young people, although the risk is still low.

For these reasons, it is important where possible to tack self-harming behaviour early.

 

Tips for helping your child >

 

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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