Self-harm is when someone deliberately carries out an act likely to cause them injury. This can take many forms such as deliberate cutting of arms or other body parts, biting or hair-pulling. It is frequently associated with younger people but can be present across age groups. The reasons why people self-harm is complex, but it is generally associated with creating an experience where the pain of the harm helps to reduce feelings of emotional distress.
You may become aware of someone in your organisation who you think may be harming themselves. Some indicators that this could be the case can be:
There are many myths about self-harm such as:
If someone in your organisation is self-harming, it can create a lot of anxiety. No one likes to think that someone is hurting themselves. However, it is important to stay calm and not to assume that simply stopping the self-harming is a priority. Self-harm fulfils a purpose for people and attempting to force someone to stop can be counter-productive and create more distress. It could also risk leading to more dangerous behaviours.
As with concerns about suicide, the priority is to have a direct but compassionate conversation with the person, asking, “Are you doing things to hurt yourself?” If the person acknowledges this, communicate that you would like to help but that you are not going to try and make them stop. Provide a compassionate listening ear and signpost them to their GP and to organisations such as Penumbra who provide support in several areas of Scotland to people who self-harm.
If the person is harming at work and you are aware of this, you will need to carry out a risk assessment to manage this, but this should be done in a collaborative and supportive way with the person, with a strong communication that they are not being judged. Again, organisations such as Penumbra can support you to do this in ways that ensure you are fulfilling your duties but supporting the person compassionately.
You can access a range of resources on self-harm from Penumbra, a leading mental health charity.
View resources on Self-Harm on Penumbra website
In partnership with mental health charity Penumbra we have compiled four comprehensive guides to accompany this web resource. These two guides, for employers, will help you to support your apprentices' mental health at work. The two guides for apprentices can be found in our Mental Health resource for apprentices.
View PDF guide Mental Wellbeing - Support for Apprentices
View PDF guide Supporting Apprentices around Suicide and Self-Harm
We are grateful to mental health charity Penumbra for providing advice and information on mental health for this resource. If any of your apprentices or other employees need support, you should encourage them to contact a GP or professional mental-health support organisation.