Understanding our young people | Self-Harm Awareness Day


On March 1st every year it’s self-harm awareness day – bringing the much-needed attention to the severity of self-harm in children, young people, and adults.

It’s said that teens have the highest statistics for self-harm injury as reported by National Today (https://nationaltoday.com/self-injury-awareness-day/#:~:text=Self-Injury%20Awareness%20Day%20dates%20%20%20%20Year,%20%20Saturday%20%201%20more%20rows%20) that 15% of teens and 17%-35% of students have practised self-harm.

We understand that the demand for support with mental health and emotional needs was increasing at an alarming rate, so we created our Affirm Project that supports those who with these needs through a befriending and mentoring service.

However, many of our young people on all our projects have subjected to self-harm or are at risk of doing so. We aim to reduce this by supporting them into better lives and futures through our volunteers. They’re there as a friend and mentor to create positive relationships, give advice and guidance to improve their personal development, social and emotional skills, and employability.

It’s said in research from The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/feb/16/self-harm-among-young-children-in-uk-doubles-in-six-years) that the rate of self-harm in young people in the UK has doubled in the last six years. In 2013-14, 221 children from ages nine to 12 were admitted into hospital with that rising in 2019-20 to 508! This is an average of 10 hospital admissions every week.

This is not including all the individuals who self-harm in silence – many will not come forward to ask for help or be admitted into the hospital, so the true number is completely unknown.

On this day, many will share their own stories of self-harm in the hopes of others seeing and knowing that they can overcome it. It’s extremely important to let people know that you can overcome something like self-harm as it can often lead to more severe outcomes such as suicide attempts. It becomes a very viscous cycle of feeling ashamed for doing so, to then attempting again for feeling down about yourself. People should always speak up to ask for help or share their own stories to help others.

You do not have to suffer in silence

Why do young people self-harm?

In research from the NSPCC (https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/childrens-mental-health/self-harm/), it highlights that many young people self-harm as a distraction to the emotional pain they’re feeling. This could be from several reasons such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, and bullying. They use this one outlet as a way to deal with their emotions.

What signs should you look for?

From the same research, NSPCC shares that if the individual is covering their arms with baggy clothes, have unexplained cuts or bruises, isolating themselves or have outbursts of anger that they could be showing clear signs of someone who is self-harming or may resort to it in the future.

It’s much more common nowadays since Covid-19 created lonely and isolated environments for young people and with severe changes like moving up to secondary school and puberty added into the mix, it can increase these unhealthy behaviours.

What can you do to help someone who may be struggling?

It can be as simple as checking in on your friends regularly, which can make them feel like they’re not alone and that they do have someone to talk to if they’re ever feeling like they may self-harm.

You could speak to professionals that could give you a better insight into how to show your support to someone at risk or could get advice and recommendations on how to refer or advise the individual to seek some help and support.

Raising awareness on such an important day like today allows for people to step forward without feeling ashamed or scared and educates those who may not understand to have an open mind and reach out to people who may need support.

Check out our Affirm Project (www.transitionsuk.org/affirm) if you feel you need support or if you know someone who may benefit from our services.