The UK has among the highest levels of self-harming among children in Europe. It’s thought mounting social pressure on children from factors including body image, social media and succeeding at school are leading causes. Sufferers poison, cut or even hang themselves.
Charity SelfharmUK, which surveyed over 1,000 UK parents online, is urging parents to take the initiative.
Project manager Ruth Ayres said: “With more children than ever being admitted to A&E each year due to self-injury, it is increasingly important to discuss self-harm with your child.
“Parents might not feel they need to broach the subject but our survey shows the likelihood is that parents or their children know a self-harmer.
“We fear thousands of children are suffering silently because many self-harmers don’t come forward.”
Ex-harmer Helen Cutteridge, 29, from Luton, warned against making assumptions: “If you’re noticing someone is a self-harmer it’s because they want to talk to you about it because they’re ready to be in that place. It’s really easy to hide the fact that you’re a self-harmer.”
Ruth Ayres added: “Communication is a key way of supporting a self-harmer. While we would discourage people to ask their children outright if they are harming, there is scope for a general conversation about it in order to raise awareness and create a space for them to talk about self-harm if they need to.”
A 2016 report showed A&E admissions for young people self-harming have risen by 68% in the last ten years and there has been a 70% increase in 10-14 year olds attending for self-harm related reasons over the last two years. Half of those who self-harm once go on to do it again.
To help parents understand self-harm and emotional resilience, SelfharmUK and Virtual College have launched a free online course and resource pack designed to encourage discussion of this important issue.