In my last article Making time to stop self-harm, SecEd, we looked at the distressing increase in self-harm in adolescents, and the ensuing associated problems, including depression, sleep problems, psychological distress and suicide risk Karen Sullivan writes for SecEd.
We also learned that educational settings play a critical role in promoting wellbeing in young people, and that PSHE lessons, in particular, could provide a means of tackling this growing problem.
The Samaritans tell us: “Some people harm themselves because they don’t know how else to cope with pressures from family, school and peer groups. Extreme feelings such as fear, anger, guilt, shame, helplessness, self-hatred, unhappiness and depression can build up over time. When these feelings become unbearable, self-harm can be a way of dealing with them.”
All students need to understand that they are in a supportive environment at school, no matter what goes on outside its doors. It goes without saying that steps to eradicate bullying, peer pressure, academic pressure and stress, and abuse on any level from the school environment is an essential part of this.
While it would go beyond the remit of most school staff to solve these problems, this type of support will go a long way towards helping sufferers feel more secure and less alone – it will help them feel heard. All staff should be able to provide guidance for where sufferers can seek clinical help.
Equally, everyone in the school community should understand what self-harm is, the serious potential dangers, and how to recognise it.
According to the NHS, some of the most common signs of self-harm include: “Unexplained cuts, bruises or cigarette burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs and chest; keeping fully covered at all times, even in hot weather; signs of depression, such as low mood, tearfulness or lack of motivation or interest in anything; self-loathing and expressing a wish to self-punish; not wanting to go on and wishing to end it all; becoming withdrawn and not speaking to others.”
Ultimately, no child should feel helpless or unsupported, and with excellent research (see last article) showing that PSHE is the ideal place in which to encourage a sense of belonging and a support network that can help to prevent self-harm and discourage it from escalating, all schools should consider incorporating this into the curriculum in whatever way possible. It’s a problem that is on the increase, with serious repercussions, but we have the potential and the means to prevent it, if we take steps now.
Read the full article Tackling self-harm: Further resources and advice
Is self harm covered sufficiently in your PSHE lessons? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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