Self Harm information for parents in Dorset

Self Harm

Self harming is when someone injures themselves on purpose and is most common amongst girls but is increasing in boys.  Around 1 in 10 young people self harm at some stage of their teenage years. Cutting is the most widespread form of self harm but hitting or burning are also common.  Self harm can take other forms such as drug overdose and suicide attempts, staying in an abusive relationship or development of an eating disorder.

Self harming is often a way for a young person to deal with difficult feelings or distress and can be a way for a young person to feel in control.  A young person may harm themselves if they are feeling overwhelmed or depressed.  Self harm can be really difficult to identify as young people who do it often conceal it because they are ashamed, afraid or worried about other people’s reactions.

Self harm is not about attention seeking and may be the only way that your child feels they can communicate their feelings to you and get the attention, care and comfort they need.  However upsetting it is for you, their intention is not to deliberately hurt or upset you.   

If your child is hurting themselves it can be difficult to take seriously or know what to do for the best.  Try to remain calm and caring even if you feel angry or scared as this will help your child to be able to come to you for comfort and distress.  Check your son or daughter’s injuries to see if they need hospital treatment and if not by providing clean dressings to cover their wounds and seek advice from your GP who can offer a range of treatment choices.


•  Young people who self harm may be facing problems at school such as bullying or the pressure of the workload
•  Young people who already have other mental health problems such as depression or are more likely to self harm
•  Young people who self harm are more likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol
•  Young people who self harm are more likely to take part in risky sexual activities
•  Young people who are experiencing large family problems or conflict are more likely to self harm
•  Young people who self harm are more likely to miss school or stop socialising with their friends 

Warning signs:

Some of these behaviours are normal, but several of the warning signs seen together may be an indication that your child is at risk. For help and advice contact one of the organisations listed below

•  Unexplained cuts or bruises
•  Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
•  Refusing to wear short sleeves or take off clothing for sports
•  Becoming withdrawn, distant or irritable
•  Carrying unnecessary sharp objects, matches or lighters
•  Not talking to friends or family
•  A drop in grades

Where to get help:

Speak to your GP or any other health professional that knows your child such as a school nurse for more advice and information.

For further information:

Visit for information about child and adolescent metal health services
Parentline Plus: A national charity providing free, 24 hour help/ support. Visit  or call 0808 800 22 22

Bullying & Cyber Safety

Truancy & Antisocial behaviour

Subtance Use and Smoking Alcohol
Sexual Health & Teenage Pregnancy Self Harm
Eating Disorders Obesity