YOUNG VOICES

Schools Are 'Struggling To Cope' With Rise In Students Self-Harming

07/01/2015 11:14 GMT | Updated 21/01/2015 10:59 GMT
Arvydas Kniukta via Getty Images

Schools are struggling to cope with students self-harming, as the numbers have increased by 20% on the previous year, according to NHS figures.

The number of 10 to 19-year-olds admitted to hospital due to self-harm injuries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland rose to 28,730 in 2013-14, a BBC Newsbeat investigation found.

Research recently released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed the number have cases of young boys admitted to A&E for self-harming has soared by 30% and is now at a five-year high.

And now, thanks to spending cuts to local services, schools have been left with a lack of expert medical help.

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"We schools really don't have the support we had four or five years ago," Caroline Kolek, a teacher and spokesperson for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said. "My experience in schools and talking to colleagues is that we are seeing a rise in self harm, predominantly among girls but also among boys as well."

Hannah Woodhead, a blogger on HuffPost, described her experiences of self-harming:

"When I was growing up, the visibility of mental health, particularly in adolescents, was at all-time low. I used to wait months for an appointment to see a psychologist at the time when every day I was thinking about killing myself.

"I often did hurt myself. Self-harm was a way of coping, of controlling something about my life when everything else was spiralling out of sight. I worried constantly about everything, from things in the immediate to things that I dreamt up in my head late at night when sleep eluded me. I only really felt safe to sleep during the day.

"For four years school was a sporadic occurrence, teachers sending home work with my older brother, my head of year threatening to call social services because of my poor attendance, despite my GP's note and my mum's daily pleas on the phone.

"There was a sea of highly unpleasant meetings where I was taken into the school and asked to tell them why I didn't feel I could attend. These were battles fought on a daily basis."

Care Minister Norman Lamb said: "Self-harm is a sign of serious emotional distress and it is crucial that young people get the help they need.

"I've brought together a team of specialists to look at how we can improve care - including in our schools - and we are investing £150m over the next five years to help young people deal with issues like self-harm and eating disorders."

Warning: some readers may find the content of this video upsetting


The minister recently encouraged teenagers battling depression to use apps to help support their mental illness, rather than seeing their GP.

However the announcement was met with criticism by mental health experts, including Young Minds' director of campaign Lucie Russell.

"There is a real risk," she said. "People with mental health issues are often desperate and sometimes they do need medication.

"What we need is a plethora of different responses to young people who are struggling. You shouldn’t do anything that says you don’t need to go to your GP."

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Samaritans, open 24 hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90
  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Young Minds offers information to young people about mental health and emotional wellbeing
  • Students Against Depression, a website by students, for students.
  • HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41
  • HeadMeds - a straight-talking website on mental health medication
  • Student Minds To join the community or launch a student group contact the charity on hello@studentminds.org.uk