Four young people’s charities have launched a campaign that aims to challenge the misconceptions that surround self-harm.

The campaign, run by ChildLine, YouthNet, and YoungMinds, was launched to coincide with Self-Harm Awareness Day on March 1.

It has been estimated that 1 in 12 young people in the UK have self-harmed at some point in their lives, according to figures from YoungMinds and Cello Group. Additionally, ChildLine has reported an increase in counselling sessions of 167% on the issue in the past 2 years.

There is also evidence that self-harming is affecting children at a younger age than ever before. In 2011/12, ChildLine reported that self-harm was in the top 5 concerns for 14-year-olds for the first time. However, in the first 6 months of 2012/13, this age dropped further appearing for the first time in the top 5 concerns for 13-year-olds.

There are many misconceptions surrounding why young people self-harm, but the campaign aims to highlight the realities of it, including:
• Self-harm is not a mental illness, nor is it an attempt to commit suicide
• It doesn’t just affect girls. Boys self-harm too, but are much less likely to tell anyone about it
• Young people from all walks of life self-harm, regardless of social or ethnic background
• Self-harm is not a fashion fad, nor is it merely ‘attention seeking behaviour’
• It is not easy for a young person to stop self-harming behaviour.

The charities hope that the awareness campaign will get people talking and help to reduce the stigma attached to self-harming which prevents many young people from seeking help.

Speaking on behalf of the charities, Emma Thomas, CEO of YouthNet, said: “More young people who self-harm are contacting our charities for help than ever before. What is really shocking though is that there are still so many young people who don’t know where to go for help.

“There are many misconceptions surrounding self-harm and they affect the way GPs, nurses, parents and peers respond when a young person comes to them seeking help for self-harming behaviour. Too often the young people we speak to tell us that they have had a bad experience when they have tried to seek help. They come away feeling judged instead of supported and they are less likely to seek help again. Unless we challenge these misconceptions and speak more openly and frankly about self-harm, the subject will remain taboo and thousands of young people will continue to suffer in silence.”

Dr. Ranj Singh, an NHS children and young people’s doctor and TV presenter, added: “In my professional role I see evidence of young people self-harming far too much and yet I only see the tip of the iceberg. Recognising the scale of the problem in the UK and challenging the misconceptions that are rife about it is vital if we are to begin to tackle this issue. What is clear is that we are currently not doing enough and need new and innovative ways to help these young people.” 

You can follow the campaign on Twitter via #selfharm and find out more about the campaign on each of the charities websites.