Skip to main content
Access keys Home News Site map Site help Complaints Terms Contact us

Key findings 5. Self-harm

Effective early help may reduce the number of those children and young people at risk.

South Gloucestershire’s Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2013-16

Secondary pupils and year 12 young people were asked is they had ever self-harmed. The 16.3% (357) who responded yes were then asked a series of questions about their self-harm, the first of which was how often they had self-harmed. 11% (36) replied “never” to this question – this means that the actual proportion of pupils who have self-harmed is actually 14.6% (357 minus the 36 “Nevers” = 321 divided by the number of pupils who responded 2,195).

A further 51.1% (163) pupils said they had self-harmed once or twice. In our experience these tend to be young people who have self-harmed as part of a game or challenge/dare and most do not go onto serious self-harm or related mental issues. We (Foster and Brown Research) call this group of young people “Experimental” self-harmers and do not include them in the analysis of habitual self-harmers. We are currently working with Professor Hawton[1] (Oxford University) and his team (who are central government advisors in this field) and he supports our approach.

Therefore the number of habitual self-harmers that we are concerned with in this study is actually 7.2% (158) – that is our 321 actual self-harmers minus 163 experimental self-harmers = 158 regular self-harmers. It is very important that this 7% figure is quoted when reporting self-harm and not the initial 16% which could be misleading. 7% is in line with national figures (also based on regular self-harm). Experimental self-harmers should be reported as a separate figure.

5.1.  Considering the regular self-harmers – these can be subdivided into habitual self-harmers – those who self-harm sometimes – e.g. monthly (38 pupils, 1.7%) and chronic self-harmers those who self-harm weekly or more (82 pupils, 3.7%).



5.2.  In line with national trends and other local studies (OPS and in and around Bristol) the incidence of regular self-harm is about 3 times more prevalent in girls than in boys. Those boys who have self-harmed are more likely to have experimented than girls, and girls are more likely to be chronic self-harmers than boys.



5.3.  There are also some gender differences in the methods they use to self-harm – girls favouring cutting in the main and boys also using more physical means (e.g. punching walls etc.). This again, backs up data from the Bristol study.




5.4.  Just over half of self-harmers (51%, n=336) have told someone about their self-harm and 10% of all self-harmers said they have had medical treatment for their injury

5.5.  A third (33%) of all self-harmers reported that they are still self-harming

5.6.  Nearly half (49%) of young people who self-harmed felt they had no help or not enough help in knowing how to build good relationships with people close to them compared to 28% of young people who do not self-harm.

5.7.  Over half (55%) of young people who self-harmed felt they had no help or not enough help in handling their feelings to them compared to 27% of young people who do not self-harm.

5.8.  18% of pupils, (20% of year 8’s and 10’s and 11% of Year 12’s) felt they needed more knowledge about self-harming.

 [1] Professor Hawton is considered a world expert in this field and has written numerous papers and books, for example K Hawton & K Rodham, By their own hand. Deliberate Sell-harm and Suicidal ideas in Adolescents. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2008