When you mention the term self harm today the public normally associates it with young people, particularly school children or teenagers. Whilst self harm is prevalent amongst young people, it also might appear that it is prolific in the education system! It is important therefore, to paint an accurate picture of self harm in schools. We have the general perception, now let’s explore the issue.
School can be the pivotal part of an adolescent’s life. This is where they discover their identity, socialise with those of their own age, experience physical and emotional changes but more importantly, tackle the more challenging and sometimes harmful side of being an adolescent. Factors which can trigger self harm include bullying, exam stress or pressure from peers to fit in. Recent studies have shown that 1 in 12 young people have self harmed in their lives, with it becoming one of the top five concerns flagged by 13 year olds, where previously it was a primary issue for older teenagers. It is worrying that individuals who self harm are increasingly becoming younger where they should really be experiencing the formative years of their lives without harming themselves. School in itself can be mixture of good and bad memories, we all have various experiences of our school years and ultimately various ways of dealing with the bad experiences. This is where support for people who self harm comes in.
The most important thing for a pupil to do is to come forward and tell an adult of their distress, which is easier said than done! One of the positive things about many schools today are the support systems put into place, whether it be counselling, mentors, medical teams and primarily teachers. By opening up about their feelings and asking for help we can put into motion a cycle of treatment and prevention for adolescents. But it is a two way process, the educational system needs to have these mechanisms and systems in place in order to give students the confidence to step forward and receive help. By educating themselves on the facts and gaining self harm awareness, educators can learn how to properly understand and assist pupils in dealing with their negative feelings in more practical ways. A recent story emerged from Unsted Park School in Godalming Surrey, in which a student who self harms was given a safety razor blade to cut themselves whilst being supervised by a teacher. This kind of act and behaviour might seem shocking to many people, however, it would appear that the school was acting on assisting the young person to manage the self harming behaviour by ‘not removing the person’s self harming tools’. What matters more is how the school then assisted the pupil in finding healthier options to manage their self harming behaviour.