Learn about self-harm

Get information on what self-harm is, what makes a young person vulnerable to self-harm and the impact it can have.

What’s on the page?

Why do young people self-harm?

There are many reasons why young people may start to self-harm. Family reasons, such as not getting on with other family members or their parents getting divorced, may be the trigger.

They may have personal problems to do with sexuality, race, culture or religion, or they may suffer from low self-esteem and feelings of isolation. Bereavement, current or previous experience of abuse in childhood or stress as a result of bulling or impending exams can all lead to self-harm.

Get insight on what self-harm is and what signs to look out for to support children and young people

 What is digital self-harm?

Self-harm is a growing issue among young people and while it is seen to be physical abuse, now, more teens are using social media to encourage others to abuse them online. To support parents on this issue, our experts give insight into why this is happens and what parents can do to support their children.

See our expert article to get answers to the following questions and areas of oncern:

– Teens perception of roasting online

– Effects of online roasting on a child’s behaviour

– Online forums and the rise of self-harm

– What motivates a child to self-harm

– Pros and cons of social media influence

Read article

Self-harm: Facts and statistics

pdf image

Who is at risk?

Girls are more than twice as likely to self-harm than boys. Source: The Good Childhood Report 2018

pdf image

Is there a link with mental health issues?

One in four of 11 to 16-year olds in England who had a mental health problem said that they had self-harmed or attempted suicide at some poin. Source: Mental Health of children and Young people in England – 2017

pdf image

How common is digital self-harm?

US study found that approximately 6% of young people between 12  and 17 have digitally self-harmed by anonymously sharing negative information about themselves online.

NHS video: Expert explains why young people may self-harm, and describes some of the different forms it can take on
Resource document

Mental Health Foundation booklet: The truth about Self-harm resource

Mental Health Foundation - booklet - the truth about self-harm

See resource

How to spot the signs of self-harm

There are two types of self-harm: physical and emotional, and young people will go to great lengths to hide them or explain them away.

The signs to look for with physical self-harm are cuts, bruises, burns and bald patches from hair pulling. Young people are likely to cover themselves up in long-sleeved clothes and hats to hide the signs.

The signs of emotional self-harm are a lot more difficult to spot – and it shouldn’t be assumed that a young person is self-harming purely on this basis. If you spot these in addition to the physical signs there may be cause for concern. The emotional signs include: depression, tearfulness and low motivation, unusual eating habits, sudden weight loss or gain, low self-esteem and drinking or taking drugs.

Self-harm can start at a very young age, i.e. seven years old or more commonly between the ages of 12 and 15 years old.

Experts say self-harm behaviour normally end within five years of starting, however, for some, it can last into adulthood.

Resource document

University of Oxford resoruce: Guide for parents who are coping with children’s self-harm

Download PDF