A group chaired by a professor from Manchester University’s Centre for Suicide Prevention has published a new set of guidelines for dealing with self-harm and long term psychological care.
A recent UK study revealed one in ten girls aged 15-16 had self-harmed in the previous year sparking a revision of guidelines from healthcare advisement body NICE.
The guideline aims to establish a longer term care plan for known self-harmers of any age as the current plan only applies to care for the first 48 hours in an accident and emergency setting.
Professor Navneet Kapur, Professor of Psychiatry and Population Health in the University’s School of Community-Based Medicine, said: “People may keep self-harm a secret which means it is difficult to know how widespread it is. Many cases are unreported unless medical treatment is required.
"This new guideline is an important step in improving health professionals’ understanding of self-harm and thereby helping to ensure people receive the treatment and support they need.”
Social workers will need to build up trusting and engaging relationships with the individuals and accurately assess the causes behind the self harm and the risks specifically involved with them personally.
This will not involve risk assessment tools but works by creating a personal care plan with the individual and those closest to them with their consent.
People should be fully involved with their care plan and feel comfortable with an intervention method should they feel the need to self-harm.
Dr Fergus Macbeth, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said: “Self-harm is a very broad term for a behaviour that can be expressed by those affected in very individual ways, which is why it is so important that each person receives the right care plan for them.
This new guideline aims to help healthcare professionals support, in the longer term, people who are known to self-harm in reducing and then stopping the behaviour.”
Jane Fenton is the facilitator of SHARE (Self-Harm Awareness and Recovery for Everyone) a self help group based in Hulme devoted to reaching out to and helping young people who self-harm. She openly says she is not a professional but advises people off the back of her own experience, as she self harmed for over 20 years.
She said: “I never went to A&E to be treated but we have girls come in and tell us about bad experiences they have had there. Self-harmers are labelled as attention seekers and it seems the nurses react like ‘you’ve hurt yourself, so you have to deal with it’ almost as though they are taking up bed space from someone more deserving.”
She hopes that the new NICE guidelines will help more people feel they will be supported if they open up about their self-harm as the help will be more readily available for a longer time.
She added: “With these new guidelines people will get an appointment to see a mental health team and then may be referred somewhere else. This should encourage people that they don’t have to be so secretive. It should make sure those who self-harm are treated equally, they need help just like any other patient.”
SHARE run a fortnightly, informal group where anyone can come along and talk. It aims to provide a place where those who self-harm can relax, not have to hide their problem and relate to those in a similar situation.
For more information on SHARE visit their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Share-Self-Harm-Awareness-Recovery-for-Everyone/205941236101801
Manchester offers support groups for anyone concerned about self-harm. Information can be found at the Mental Health in Manchester website www.mhim.org.uk
For a more detailed look at the new NICE guidelines visit www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG133