Jacqui Morrissey, Assistant Director of Research and Influencing, Samaritans comments on The Lancet self-harm study
We hope today’s reported rise in self-harm will prompt urgent action at a national and local level to ensure the best sources of support are available to those who need it. Self-harm is a sign of serious emotional distress and while the majority of people who self-harm will not go on to take their own life, it is a strong predictor for future suicide risk. It’s therefore vital that there is a broad public health approach, rooted in education across front line professionals and the wider community, improved mental health services and effective support on and offline.
At Samaritans, we witness first hand the impact of self-harm, with self-harm being discussed in 1 in 10 calls for help. We are therefore making self-harm a priority issue for our research and policy work this year. One important aspect of this involves navigating the complexities of self-harm related online content, which has grown prevalent in recent years and can be particularly influential amongst a younger audience. That’s why we are spearheading a strategic partnership with tech companies and the Government to tackle harmful online content and learn more about the types of online content that can be a positive source of support. We have also recently launched a campaign encouraging the public to respond to a government consultation on online harms, and call for an international approach to tackle harmful content hosted overseas.
In order to make meaningful change around this issue, we need to improve more than the online environment. We know the majority of people who self-harm do not seek medical help, and we all need to do more to reach this group. We need to help them to understand the risks of self-harm, to encourage them to seek help and learn healthier, more effective ways to cope. Front-line professionals such as teachers and social workers should receive training in identifying and responding appropriately to people who self-harm. But we need to do more than just address the current problem. Schools and community based initiatives should be supporting young people to develop emotional resilience and coping skills, and provide young people with the skills and support they need so they don’t consider self-harm as an option to begin with. It will take everyone working together to stop the trajectory self-harm is currently on.
For more information please call the Samaritans Media Team on 020 8394 8300 or email [email protected]
Notes to Editors
* Cooper, J,. Steeg, S,.Bennewith, O,. Lowe, M,. Gunnell, D,. House, A,. Hawton, K,. Kapur, N,. (2013) Are hospital services for self-harm getting better? An observational study examining management, service provision and temporal trends in England. BMJ Open, 3. http://doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003444
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