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Self-harm, as defined in guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2022), is an “intentional self-poisoning or self-injury irrespective of the apparent purpose of the act". 

Key facts:

  • About 1 in 10 young people will self harm
  • Each year self harm leads to 150,000 attendances at A&E  
  • Self harm varies by age and is more common in children with mental illness
  • Girls (6.5%) are more likely to report self-harm than boys (5%)  

Risk factors for self harm include:

  • Depression
  • Poverty
  • Parental criminality
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Being abused  

Supporting children and young people who self-harm includes:

  • Appropriate medical care
  • Prevention e.g. building resilience
  • Individual support and/or group counselling

(The mental health of children and young people in England. PHE, 2016).

What can schools do?  

Schools can effectively address challenging mental health issues, such as self harm, through their programmes of PSHE and RSHE. However these topics require careful management and use of the right approaches, taking account of current guidance.  

Key messages include:

  • Do not provide detailed methods, instructions or inspiration
  • Use non-emotive language, images and videos
  • Signpost sources of support
  • Teach about wound care
  • Be cautious about using visitor input*

*Note that visitors speaking about mental health and emotional wellbeing can inadvertently provide inspiration or instruction in the very behaviour you and they are seeking to prevent.

Responding to self-harm - resources from Young Minds for schools

Self-harm guidance and teaching resources from Anna Freud


Virtual College has free online courses that provide information on how to sensitively talk to children about self-harm and tactics for increasing mental resilience.

  • This free course for those that work with children and adults, will help learners to understand what to do if they suspect someone is potentially self-harming
  • This free course addresses teenage self-harm and helps parents to support children

Youth Mental Health First Aid The 2 day courses provide an introduction to self-harm for all those working with young people aged 8-18. 

Wiltshire Self-Harm: Setting the scene for action

Hold the date for our upcoming conference on the 2nd of November 2023, which aims to bring together individuals and organisations across Wiltshire to build a shared understanding of self-harm, and how we can support people in Wiltshire.

This event will run from 9:30-16:00 on the 2nd of November. The venue will be confirmed later, but is likely to be County Hall, Trowbridge.

Refreshments and Lunch will be provided.

The agenda will be confirmed closer to date, but will focus on three sections:

  1. Setting the Scene: Building a shared understanding of Self-Harm.
  2. Collaboration: Share Learning, collaborate in workshops.
  3. Action: Case Studies and Commitments

An EventBrite booking link will be available soon. If you would like to get involved, please email

Local information and support

Wiltshire prevalence has increased slightly since 2017:

  • 29% of year 12/FE respondents and 24% of secondary respondents reported that they had ever self-harmed or deliberately taken an overdose
  • 14% of secondary school pupils and 15% of year 12/FE pupils reported self-harming monthly, weekly or daily 

  • A larger percentage of females self-harm monthly or more frequently in both school phases
  • A larger proportion of all the identified vulnerable groups reported that they have self-harmed more often than the Wiltshire average

  • Proportions were particularly high in secondary LGBT children and year 12/FE LGBT children and young carers
  • 38% of secondary pupils and 21% of FE students did not tell anyone about their self-harm

Wiltshire Children and Young People's Health and Wellbeing Survey (2021). Year 8, 10 & 12.

HarmLESS is an NHS resource for those who have contact with young people who are self-harming. It is designed to help you talk about self-harm with a young person so that you can decide what support might be helpful.

School Health Nurses can also provide support.

On Your Mind - Wiltshire Children and Young People Emotional Wellbeing Service.