4 Parents



This section is for parents and carers who may be worried about self-harm and their teenager. It is also for parents who have a teenager who has a friend who self-harms.

Here is a typical scenario

“Your outgoing child has begun to act differently, spending long periods in their bedroom. You think they’re nursing a broken heart; it wasn’t so long ago that their relationship ended and they do have a lot of school-work to do. You can’t think why they don’t want to do things they used to find relaxing, swimming for example. Then, when they’re changing one day you catch a quick glimpse of their back, it’s got long, precise cuts on it, some of which look fresh and sore. You have to catch yourself from not exclaiming. The next day you ask them downstairs to ‘help out with the washing’ you have a look at their forearms – more cuts. They’re not a ‘dramatic child’; you think you are a good, communicative parent. What’s gone wrong? You don’t know what to do …”

4 identification facts
  • Self-harm consists of behaviours such as cutting, burning, over-dosing, pinching and a variety of other injurious behaviours causing damage to the skin and body.
  • Self-harm is almost always due to the person being stressed or distressed.
  • Self-harm can be linked with depression, increased alcohol or drug use, attention deficit disorder and a variety of mental health conditions such as, in a small group of individuals, emotionally unstable personality disorder.
  • Having a family member who self-harms increases the chances of the behaviour occurring.
4 Clues
  • Cut or burn marks on arm, legs or body.
  • Cutting instruments in teenagers belongings.
  • Stopping activities that require showing their body or becoming increasingly secretive about their body.
  • Blood stains on clothing.

4 steps to assist with the change

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  • Learn to pick up on warning signs
  • Keep boundaries but don’t expect your teenager to make change straight away. You may wish to take implements used to self-harm away from immediate or easy reach but give your teenager something else that will help them soothe their stress or distress – for example stress balls, a ‘punch’ cushion, and the opportunity to have a hug. Get them help.
  • Your G.P. should be your first port of call. They can refer you to NHS resources such as CAMHS or to appropriate private practitioners. A psychological or psychiatric assessment to diagnose the proper and suggest appropriate help is essential.
  • Self-Harm can take a while to change. Relapse at times of change and stress is also possible. Keep supporting your teenager to change. Be hopeful. There are lots of effective psychological treatments that help.