Survey's shock self-harming findings

Blog by Mrs Fergusson, Depute Rector 

A shocking report about the number of teenagers self-harming was reported by the BBC today revealing one in four girls aged 14 has admitted self-harming.

While it is really important to recognise this problem exists and examine the best ways of supporting those affected, it is also important not to cause any undue fear.

Teenage years can be difficult for many children for a variety of reasons and The Children’s Society’s survey of 11,000 children revealed 22% of girls and 9% of boys had admitted to deliberately hurt themselves. Common causes for self-harming, which can include everything from cutting and punching to hitting and burning, include depression, bullying, pressure at school, emotional abuse, grieving, relationship problems and pressures of social media.

The world for today’s teenagers is a very different one from the world in which their parents grew up and it can sometimes be difficult for parents to understand and appreciate the ‘modern’ pressures our youngsters face on a daily basis.

Yes, sadly, bullying has always existed but throw social media into the mix and this issue has a much wider and often very public impact. Not to mention the accessibility of social media sites which glamourise the act of self-harming.

At Hutchesons’ we take the emotional and physical well-being of our pupils extremely seriously and we have invested heavily to ensure all our pupils are nurtured and cared for. Our pastoral care staff are well-trained and our pupils in each year of Secondary have a team of teachers to whom they can go to for support. The year tutor teams operate an open-door policy so pupils with any concerns or issues can speak to them. We also have a trained counsellor whose sole responsibility is to be available to pupils who, for whatever reason, need to speak to someone.

But our pastoral care is not simply reactive and our staff are pro-active in identifying whether a child needs a little extra support or perhaps just a friendly chat to get stuff off their chest. Throughout the academic year they keep a watchful and protective eye over their pupils.

The School/Parent partnership is very important in identifying pupils who need extra support and so I would urge any parent who has concerns about their child to contact myself at fergussong@hutchesons.org

Victims of self-harming often keep their actions secret and so parents may not be aware their child is struggling. The NSPCC has issued guidance to help parents spot the signs. Look for physical signs such as cuts, bruises, burns and bald patches from pulling out hair. These are commonly on the head, wrists, arms, thighs and chest.

The emotional signs are harder to spot:

  • depression
  • tearfulness and low motivation
  • becoming withdrawn and isolated, for example wanting to be alone in their bedroom for long periods
  • sudden weight loss or gain
  • low self-esteem and self-blame
  • drinking or taking drugs 

What we as parents can do to help our children.

  • Show you understand
  • Talk it over
  • Discover the triggers
  • Build their confidence
  • Show you trust them
  • Choose who you tell carefully
  • Help them find new ways to cope

There are a number of places young people can turn to for advice and support and the Young Minds charity is a good place go for information.

As parents the best thing we can do for our children is be aware of their reality and the problems they face so we can offer them the support when and if it is needed. So while the BBC report's shocking statistic may cause alarm amongst parents, it also serves its purpose of highlighting the issue.

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