Recent figures have shown that one in 12 children and young people self-harm in the UK – but only one in three teachers cover the issue in their lessons. Most youngsters, however, believe that the subject is one that should be addressed in school.
The most comprehensive survey ever undertaken into perceptions of self-harm among young people in the UK also revealed that parents, GPs and teachers see self-harm as more concerning than drug use, binge-drinking, bullying and gangs.
The research, conducted by Cello, a health-focused marketing research and consulting company, in partnership with UK teen charity YoungMinds questioned 2,500 parents, teachers, GPs and young people earlier this year.
Researchers found that two-thirds of teachers do not know what to say to youngsters who self-harm. Teachers were said to “feel limited in how they can directly provide support because of school child protection policies, and due to a lack of knowledge and skills”.
Meanwhile a third of parents admit that they would not seek professional help if their child was self-harming and almost half of GPs feel they do not understand why young people self-harm. Three out of five GPs are worried about what language to use while eight out of 10 say they have not had the necessary training to help.
Despite the fact that self-harm inpatient admissions have increased by 68 per cent over the last 10 years, more than three-quarters of young people say they do not know where to turn to talk about the issue.
In response to the findings, YoungMinds has produced a series of recommendations for parents, teachers, peers and health professionals on how to identify and support teenagers who self-harm or are at risk of self-harming.
“This report should set alarm bells ringing about how we as a society support young people who turn to self-harm,” said Lucie Russell, director of campaigns, policy and participation at YoungMinds.
“More and more young people are self-harming as a coping mechanism and parents and professionals are very frightened about how to respond.
“Young people often talk for the first time about self-harm to teachers, parents and GPs. It is vital that we increase the knowledge and capability of parents and professionals so that they are able to support the thousands of young people who are suffering intense internal pain that is manifested externally.”
The full report, entitled Talking Self Harm, can be read at www.cellogroup.com/pdfs/talking_self_harm.pdf