Young people who self-harm are not getting the support they urgently need, according to a new inquiry led by the APPG on Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention, supported by Samaritans
The report found that young people who self-harm are made to wait until they reach crisis point before having any chance of receiving support.
The cross-party group of MPs and peers spoke to expert organisations, health professionals as well as young people with experience of self-harm and heard how support arrives much too late due to service waiting times, thresholds and all too common stigma.
Whilst these barriers to support pre-date the pandemic, the inquiry learnt that these problems are likely to be exacerbated by Covid-19, with experts expressing concerns to the panel about the system’s ability to cope with the demand post-pandemic, and the impact that this will have on the most vulnerable young people in society.
Jess* struggled to access support services for self-harm and shared her experiences with the inquiry.
I wouldn’t have cost the NHS so much if I was helped earlier. I was in a much better place when I presented than when I was admitted.
Jess also told the inquiry that although she was eventually successfully referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), this support took far too long to arrive, in which time her mental health had declined significantly to the point she was too ill to utilise the help offered.
The inquiry also heard how particular groups of young people, such as those from ethnic minorities, those who identify as LGBT, or are autistic particularly struggle to access support due to problems with service outreach and design.
Members of the APPG are now calling on the Government to fund and implement a new system of early intervention to better support young people, before they reach crisis point. The panel is asking for funding to be targeted specifically at early intervention initiatives delivered by community support services such as youth clubs as well as third sector support specifically for self-harm.
We have heard repeatedly of the urgent need to move towards a preventative model for dealing with self-harm that supports young people to help them to manage their emotions before they reach a crisis. As well as benefitting our stretched health system, such a shift would support a simple principle: no child, teenager or young person should ever suffer alone.
Chair of the Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention APPG, Liz Twist MP
The panel’s recommendations also include calls on the Government to encourage the creation of free, community-based mental health services to provide immediate support in a non-clinical setting. Third sector and voluntary organisations also currently provide invaluable support, but they are struggling to meet demand. The report is therefore also asking for financial backing for this sector so that they can continue to support vulnerable young people.
*Not her real name
Notes to editors:
- Mental health charity Young Minds and Student Life, a charity led by young people which works in Kent, Suffolk and Sussex, facilitated young people with lived experience of self-harm giving oral evidence to the inquiry. Pseudonyms have been used for all young people who gave evidence to protect anonymity.
- The inquiry panel supported by leading suicide prevention charity Samaritans, consisted of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. They were:
- Liz Twist MP (Labour) – Chair of the APPG on Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention and the inquiry
- Jackie Doyle-Price MP (Conservative)
- Jason McCartney MP (Conservative)
- Bambos Charalambous MP (Labour)
- Mary Glindon MP (Labour)
- Baroness Tyler of Enfield (Liberal Democrat)
- Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (Crossbench)
- Both written and oral evidence was received as part of the inquiry
- This inquiry focused on the experience of young people up to the age of 25, given the high and rising rates of self-harm among this group.
Read more about the APPG inquiry into support available for young people who self-harm