What schools and further education settings can do

Guidance and support for schools and settings on what to do to help pupils who may be self-harming, or at risk of self-harm, get the support they need.

If you are at all concerned about a child or young person, you should always speak to your designated safeguarding lead as a matter of priority. They will be able to advise on suitable next steps, and speaking to them about any concerns should always be the first action you take, ahead of any of the suggestions on this page.

Although the suggestions on this page are broadly split into primary and secondary age groups, the majority of the advice can be applicable for all ages. All children and young people are different, and it’s important to understand the needs of the individual child and young person when looking for ways to support their mental health and wellbeing.

What primary schools can do

Although self-harm is more common in older children, primary schools should still be aware of the signs, and think about early intervention.

Inform your safeguarding team

If a child is self-harming, don’t deal with it alone. Self-harming behaviours should be taken very seriously, so you should follow your school’s safeguarding procedures carefully. Some children will need extra help either through school pastoral/counselling support or through referral to community-based support.

Explore emotions through lessons and programmes

Thoughts can really influence and affect our moods. However, many children may not be aware when this is happening to them. Through effective teaching of RSHE, schools can help children learn about their emotions and learn strategies for regulating them. A number of universal and targeted school-based programmes can also prevent children being overwhelmed by low mood and supports them to learn effective coping skills to manage life’s ups and downs.

Build positive relationships with pupils

Positive relationships in the classroom/school that are built on trust, safety and security promote pupil wellbeing and help children affected by sad or low mood – encouraging them to open up and talk.

What secondary schools and further education settings can do

Don’t deal with it alone

If you discover that a student is self-harming, speak to your safeguarding lead straight away. Then together you can make a plan to support the student.

Consider a specialist referral

If necessary, you may need to refer the young person for outside help – for example from a GP or specialist CAHMS. For advice before making a referral, schools can call their local CAMHS duty line.

Speak up

If you notice self-harming behaviour in a student, talk to them about it. Discuss your concerns with them and listen to them non-judgementally. Then you can create a plan together, which can be shared others in the school community – including the student’s parents/carers, if appropriate.

Speak to the student and involve them in your plan

Speak to the young person about your concerns and let them know what you have observed – once you have spoken with your safeguarding team. Listen to the young person and work together with them to make a plan, and then share this with the appropriate people. Keep the young person updated and involved with the plan continuously, so that they don’t feel that they are being excluded from the process.

Inform parents/carers

The young person’s parents or carers will need to be informed. School staff should not feel that they have to take sole responsibility for supporting the student, a parent/carer may have a better understanding of other factors impacting the young person.

Take a whole-school approach to self-harm

Often young people may know that their friends are self-harming, but may not know what to do about it. Develop a clear way that young people can seek help if they are worried about a friend, and ensuring all students know about this pathway.

Concerned about a child or young person?

If you are worried that a child or young person is at risk involve your designated safeguarding lead as a matter of priority, who will contact the parents/carers and other services as necessary. If the child or young person is at immediate risk, ensure that they are taken to their GP or A&E as a matter of urgency, depending on the severity of the concern.

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