Self-harm in children and young people


Reports of self-harm have increased in the UK over the past decade. 

People working with children and young people need to have an understanding of this behaviour and what to look out for and how to help those in distress.

What is self-harm?

Self-harm happens when someone hurts or harms themselves. They may or may not intend to end their lives and it may be a reaction to a life event or part of the way in which they are coping with distress

There's a wide range of harmful behaviours including cutting, burning and poisoning.  Potentially harmful sexual activity and remaining in an abusive relationship are also forms of harmful behaviour.

An act of self-harm may be made with a number or combination of intentions:

  • To manage difficult emotion.

  • To communicate distress.

  • To complete suicide



 Why do young people self-harm?

Often a young person cannot explain why they have self-harmed and find it hard to put into words their thoughts and feeling.

Self-harm is a way of expressing deep distress.

Self-Harm: self-help booklet

This self-help booklet aims to help those who self-harm, and their family/friends/colleagues find support. It includes a self-harm safety plan to help people identify coping strategies.  The booklet is available as both a printable version and a digital version. Click on the links for the version you want.