Schools have a safeguarding and child protection responsibility to deal as quickly and appropriately as possible with presenting mental health problems and any situation in which the wellbeing of an individual student is threatened. Schools also aim to work in collaboration with parents and carers, whilst keeping the students best interests at heart. Teachers are well placed to notice the changes in behaviours as well as the features of anxiety and depression which often accompany self-harm.
A comprehensive and cohesive approach to dealing with a presenting mental health issue such as self-harm will be of benefit to all concerned.
4 Facts in 4 areas
- Avoiding activities that require exposure of body.
- Wearing long sleeves even on very hot days.
- Increase in risk behaviour.
- Changes associated with mood disorders including –
- Changes in school performance, Loss of concentration, absent from school more, Lack of engagement.
2. Physical Factors
- Cuts, bruises, marks – particularly if they occur frequently and in repeated areas of the body.
- Regular visits to A&E for injuries the causes of which are hard to account for.
- Appears tired and without energy or edgy and explosive.
- May present with a lot more physical illness, aches and pains, absences from school due to illness.
3. Psychological changes
- Looks sad and withdrawn.
- Less able to concentrate.
- Easily irritable and angry.
- More easily tearful.
4. Social Factors
- Friends may present with concerns.
- Withdrawal from social group or may be in a social group that self-harms.
- Not joining in any social activities especially where clothes worn may show body – for example party clothes.
- Associating with peers who may have a history of self-harm or high risk behaviours.
What can schools do?
4 suggestions for change
- 1. Education on self-harm. Offered by a professional in order to present an accurate but sensitive view.
- 2. A clear and effective system to support a student who presents with self-harm supporting peers who are part of the group.
- 3. A named teacher and peer supporter from a core team of trained staff and students to be available should help be needed.
- 4. Establish links with local services and know what the referral pathways are. Get a professional to help assess risk.