Best Practice

Mental health: Self-harm and suicide

Probably many more students than you think self-harm or have suicidal thoughts, warns Dr Stephanie Thornton. She offers her advice on recognising the early signs of problems.

How many teenagers in our classrooms self-harm? How many are suicidal?

The answer is that nobody really knows, but it is probably more than you think: this is not a small problem. 

Twenty per cent of teenagers admit that they self-harm, most without being discovered by family or school. Five in 100,000 actually kill themselves, but this is just the tip of the iceberg: very many more feel suicidal.

The classic image of self-harm is a girl cutting herself with a razor blade, burning herself with a cigarette, or dieting to the point of emaciation.

The revelation of recent NHS reports is that these things are also common among boys. Boys hide the problem more assiduously (for fear of teasing, since self-harm might be regarded as “girlish”).

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