There is a gulf in understanding about self-harm and where young people should go for support, suggests two new surveys commissioned by a consortium of leading UK youth charities for Self-Harm Awareness Day 2016.
An online YouGov poll found that 67 per cent of parents with children aged 11 to 24 believe that young people who self-harm should ask their parents for information and support. According to a separate survey, only 16 per cent of young people who self-harm would consider that an option, with most preferring to turn to friends or online support groups.
The YouGov poll also found that 40 per cent of parents believe that one of the reasons young people usually self-harm is “attention seeking”. In a separate survey, young people themselves said that the main reasons were low self-esteem, bullying and depression.
ChildLine, YouthNet/Get Connected, SelfharmUK and YoungMinds commissioned a poll of 815 parents of children and young people aged 11 to 24, alongside a separate survey of 3,800 young people up to the age of 24 who self-harm. The charities are releasing the findings ahead of Self-Harm Awareness Day (Tuesday 1st March).
Speaking on behalf of the charities, John Cameron from ChildLine said: “Many parents really want to offer support for self-harm, but don’t know how to broach the subject with their children; meanwhile the stigma and misconceptions around it, including the fact that many people see it as just attention-seeking behaviour, can make it more difficult for young people to be open with their parents. We at NSPCC/ChildLine, together with our charity partners, want to raise awareness of our services which offer comprehensive support to both young people and their parents on this issue.”
Trevor, a parent who worked with YoungMinds to develop an advice pack about self-harm, said: “Having found out my child was self-harming I was so devastated and confused as to why. My emotions were all over the place, not knowing how to help her, where to go for professional help – it was so stressful. As a father I just wanted to wrap her up in cotton wool.
“Back then I didn’t know there were groups and services that could or would help her. But I did know it was hugely important to let my daughter know she was not alone. We, her family, were all here for her, to help her get better, support her through the darkest of times and help her feel safe.”
Emily-Jade, a volunteer with YouthNet, said: “I remember the first time my mum found out I was self-harming, she told me it wasn’t serious and I was just being pathetic. I thought she’d understand as she herself was a self-harmer, even to this day she still believes I’m attention seeking. From that moment I made sure to hide my scars under my arms and pretend everything was okay, until I logged online and would pour my heart out to online help services.”
Among the findings are:
- 67% of parents think that young people should go to their parents for information and support for self-harm, while 66% thought they should go to their GP. In fact, only 16% of young people who self-harm would actually choose to talk to their parents about it, while only 27% would go to their doctor. 61% said they would turn to friends, while 76% would turn to online groups like Get Connected or Self Harm UK (75% of parents also thinking this).
- Both young people and parents agree that public perceptions of self-harm are unhelpful: 53% of parents and 67% of young people who self-harm agreed that public perceptions of self-harm “often” or “always” prevented people from talking about it.
- Young people said that the main reasons they self-harm are low self-esteem, bullying and depression. Parents believed the main reasons were bullying, abuse and family breakdown.
- 40% of parents thought that “seeking attention” was one of the reasons young people usually self-harm. In the survey with young people, 80% answered the open question “Is there anything else you would want people to know about self harm?” by saying that they wished people didn’t think self-harm was attention-seeking.
The charities have created a range of resources about self-harm for both parents and young people. You can follow the Self-Harm Awareness Day activity on Twitter via #SHAD16 or go to the charities’ websites: www.nspcc.org.uk; www.youngminds.org.uk; www.childline.org.uk; www.selfharm.co.uk; www.youthnet.org
Top five tips for parents, from a young person who self-harms:
- Try not to judge: “My parents didn’t like it but they didn’t think it made me a bad person.”
- Be honest: “My parents told me they didn’t get it – nor did I. Their honesty and questions helped me to open up about it.”
- Accept recovery as a process: “I can’t stop. Not right now. If you ask me to, I’ll feel like I’m letting you down. It’s going to take time.”
- Listen: “My dad said very little. He just listened. It was exactly what I needed.”
- Talk about other things too: “I’m more than my self-harm. It doesn’t have to be the focus of every conversation.”
[Source: No Harm Done parents pack]
Case studies for press and media interviews are available on request.
Louie Rodrigues, Youthnet: 07946 662066; Louie.Rodrigues@youthnet.org
NOTES TO EDITORS
About the poll
All survey figures from parents, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4154 adults of which 815 were parents with children aged 11-24. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd – 23rd February 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
All survey figures from young people were taken from a survey on selfharm.co.uk website. Total sample size was 3,800 young people who self-harm. Fieldwork was undertaken from 15-26 February.
About the Charities
- YouthNet’s and Get Connected’s have recently merged to create a new charity that offers multi-issue support to young people under 25. The new charity aims to reach 2 million young people by 2018; reaching 1 in 4 of the UK’s population of 16-25 year olds. They provide nonjudgmental, informal support for any issue an under 25 year olds may come up against.
- ChildLine offers children and young people aged 18 and under free, confidential advice and support 24 hours a day – no problem is too big or small. Our trained volunteer counsellors can be contacted through our helpline 0800 1111 or on www.childline.org.uk for online chat or email. New video on self-harm: youtube.com/watch?v=AJfKtM-mdlU
- YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people. They have launched No Harm Done, a series of films and advice packs about self harm for young people, parents and professionals.
- selfharmUK is a safe, pro-recovery website that supports young people who self-harm. It also offers training for parents, carers and professionals equipping them to handle disclosure and provide effective support. www.selfharm.co.uk