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Hidden Too Long: uncovering Self-Harm in Scotland brings together insights from people with lived experience, stakeholders working across frontline services and from the general public.
- Last year Samaritans’ 24-hour helpline discussed self-harm with callers over 272,000 times – or once every two minutes.
- The proportion of adults in Scotland who say they have ever self-harmed has risen from 3% in 2008-09 to 7% in 2018-19*.
- Only half the people in a Samaritans’ survey of people with lived experience of self-harm had sought help following their most recent experience of self-harm**
- A survey of adults in Scotland found that while nearly 9 in 10 (89%) believe that self-harm is a serious issue and more should be done to address it, 2 in 5 (40%) said they would not know how to support someone close to them if they were self-harming***.
- The charity’s report, Hidden Too Long: uncovering Self-Harm in Scotland, highlights how stigma prevents people from seeking support and calls for national action to ensure more people get the right help at the right time.
Samaritans Scotland is calling for renewed national leadership to improve responses to self-harm, after new research found nearly 9 in 10 (89%) adults in Scotland want to see further action on this vital public health issue***.
Samaritans Scotland, the leading charity for crisis support and suicide prevention, has today published a new report, Hidden Too Long: uncovering Self-Harm in Scotland, which brings together insights from people with lived experience, from stakeholders working across frontline services and from the general public, to develop a comprehensive picture of self-harm in Scotland.
The charity is calling for a new national strategy to improve understanding of self-harm and strengthen support for those affected, after research highlighted how deep and entrenched stigma around self-harm creates barriers to seeking help and support.
A survey of over 1,000 adults in Scotland found that while the vast majority agreed that self-harm is a serious issue and want to see further action to address it, 2 in 5 (40%) said they would not know how to support someone close to them if they were self-harming. The same survey found that nearly 1 in 3 (31%) adults would not feel comfortable talking to their partner or close family about self-harm, while nearly 2 in 5 (39%) would not feel comfortable talking about it with friends. Nearly 1 in 4 (24%) would not feel comfortable talking about self-harm with their GP or another healthcare professional***.
Rachel Cackett, Executive Director of Samaritans Scotland explains why the charity believes there is an urgent need for renewed focus on self-harm. She said: “Although self-harm remains a taboo subject for many, and is notably absent from key national strategies, we know it is an issue which affects many, many individuals, families and communities all over Scotland.
Recent data shows that 1 in 6 young people aged 16-24 in Scotland have self-harmed at some point in their lives*, while the proportion of adults who reported ever self-harming in Scotland rose from 3% in 2008-09 to 7% in 20018-19*. It’s too early to know how the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions will affect mental health in the long term, but we are particularly concerned about the potential impact on already high-risk groups including young people, women, middle-age men, people with pre-existing mental health conditions and people experiencing deprivation.
Our report - Hidden Too Long: Uncovering self-harm in Scotland - highlights how stigma discourages help-seeking and uncovers the barriers which prevent people from receiving the support they need. But it also points to areas of opportunity, with friends, family, and community services often acting as a hidden frontline of support.
We want policy-makers to consider how they can work with individuals, families, communities and services to tackle stigma, strengthen support and address the underlying causes of self-harm. And we want to know that if someone takes the brave step of asking for help with their self-harm, the understanding, care and support they need will be there.”
Last year, Samaritans’ free, 24-hour helpline provided emotional support to someone in connection with self-harm every two minutes across the UK and Republic of Ireland. While many people turn to self-harm as a way of coping with difficult experiences and emotions, evidence shows that repeated self-harm can increase suicide risk.
Steven Fegan, from Ayrshire, began self-harming during a difficult period his life. After seeking support, Steven went onto become a Samaritans supporter and is now training to volunteer with the charity’s 24-hour helpline.
He says: “I know from my own experience how difficult it can be to ask for help when you’re struggling. For me, things had built up over time – relationship breakdown, losing my mobility due to health issues, grieving for a friend who had taken his own life – and self-harm was a way of trying to cope with all these overwhelming feelings.
The stigma around self-harm left me feeling ashamed and like I needed to hide what I was going through, even from the people closest to me. But when I eventually did reach out and ask for help, I was met by people who cared; they listened and supported me without judgement. And that was life-changing, even lifesaving.
I hope that by talking openly and honestly about self-harm we can improve understanding, encourage more people to ask for help and ensure that the right support is there when they do.”
Read and download Hidden Too Long: uncovering Self-Harm in Scotland below.
* Data from the Scottish Health Survey 2019 – Volume One: main report
**Samaritans online survey, carried out among 900 participants across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland (adults aged 16 and over) including 102 in Scotland between September and December 2019.
*** Data from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,035 adults, of which 994 were happy to answer questions on this subject. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th-10th September 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scotland adults (aged 18+).