Discovering that your young person is self-harming can be very distressing for all the family. Self-inury however is a communication by a young person that they are in distress; they need the same kindness and understanding that they would have experienced had they been able to communicate in words.
At Arun Court School we are always looking out for signs of self-injury, particularly when students come to us talking about low and dark moods. We ask them about the thought, rather than just asking if we have seen something concerning, as having the urge to self-injure is taken just as seriously in our setting.
Self harm can take many forms from pulling out hair/eye lashes and skin picking, to scalding, burning and cutting. Students can also self-injure through the pain association within an eating disorder or through putting themselves at high risk through endangerment e.g sexually.
Those who have self-harmed describe a sense of release from the emotions welling up inside them. They also talk about how it is actually preventing them from suicide or see it as a way of them preventing doing harm to others.
What do we do to support?
Most important is to not over-focus on the self-harm. I know this sounds strange, but the self-harm is an expression of distress. We need to focus on what is causing the distress and support with that. Someone can stop self-harming but can still be hugely unwell and distressed.
An open culture, where students know they can discuss the issue without fear of an adult being disgusted or shocked. They will always experience kindness and care. Some staff members have a personal understanding due to their own experiences, and we place a high focus on the survivor voice.
A culture of giving control to the student - asking them what they would like to happen, and for suggestions around things that help
Direction towards good online Aps and support - such as the calmharm appplication
The nurture room provides a safe space with non-taking well-being strategies to support with anxiety 'in the moment'. The nurture room has a large range of sensory equipment and tools so that students can explore more positive sensory stimulation
Solution-focused coaching, CBT and psychotherapy
Risk list held by the school and our own PAFs (Plans around the family) designed to assess and minimalise the risk, as well as keep the whole family supported
Support groups for parents, and regular guest speakers on this subject and on many others.
Designated policy on self-injury and suicide
An amazing training day - and more to come!
We are very exited to be continuing our realtionship with Satveer Najeer and her wonderful organisation (Attentionseekers?) which supports professionals and families around the issue of self harm. Satveer provided a parent workshop this January and has also conducted staff training. She will be returning in the Spring to work directly with some of our young people.
SOURCES OF HELP
These services are not associated with us. We are not responsible for the quality of service they provide, we are recommending them based on the positive experiences of some young people known to us. By inclusion in this list nor are we suggesting that we are in any way affiliated with these servcies.
ANXIETY UK - Support, online counselling, magazine, advice
Text line: 07537416905
Info line: 03444775774
A magazine packed full of useful articles around not just ASD, but the mental health aspects associated with it - fascinating reading and lots of signalling to specialist support.
Website provides support for young people, professionals and parents. Young people who feel they are having a mental health crisis can get instant emergency support by texting YM to 85258
OCD UK - advice, online counselling, support and magazine. Dedicated youth services.
PAPYRUS - suicide prevention young people's hotline 0800 068 41 41
An eating disorder support service - smaller than some of the bigger associations, but specifically aimed at young people.