I attended a training course for professionals on self harm by adolescents called the Space Programme (Supporting Parents and Carers of Young people with self-harm). It was designed by Temple Street Children’s Hospital in conjunction with the Mater Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. This programme was developed to inform and to educate professionals who work with teenagers who self harm. It was drawn up in response to the numbers of teenagers who self harm that attend the A&E in Temple Street. A key message was that further research is required into this problem in Ireland.
The course addressed many issues such as: a definition of self-harm, the methods employed, the numbers who self harm and the reasons why adolescents self harm. It also addressed self-care for the minder as well as giving a list of useful resources and community networks. Most of this information was based upon feedback from a survey commissioned by the National Suicide Research Foundation in 2008. This survey is the only comprehensive investigation carried out on self-harm in Irish schools. This survey was administered by University College Cork. Fifty-four schools in the southern region were invited to participate. A representative sample of 39 schools was selected and the response rate was 85%.
Some of the key outputs from the course and the survey are as follows:
- Self-harm is defined as an act with a non-fatal outcome in which an individual deliberately did one or more of the following:
- Initiated behaviour with the intention to cause self-harm
- Ingested a substance in excess of the generally recognisable therapeutic dose
- Ingested a recreational or illicit drug regarded as self-harm
- Ingested a non-ingestible substance/object
- 9.1% of young people aged 15-17 years engaged in DSH in their lifetime
- Girls were 3 times more likely to harm themselves than boys
- Boys were twice as likely as girls to have been under the influence of alcohol when DSH occurred and 5 times likely to have taken an illegal drug
- Fighting with parents and schoolwork were the main risk factor for DSH for girls as well as drug use, suicidal behaviour amongst friends and family. Self-esteem was a protective factor for girls only.
- Anxiety, impulsivity and problems with schoolwork were associated with DSH for boys only.
- Only 15.3% of adolescents sought help for a health service after engaging in DSH
- Young people want more information from about positive mental health and suicidal behaviour including services that are available to them
- Young people want to feel valued by their community
The course also referred to the link between depression and self-harm as well as the importance of open communication within the family. Other aspects of the course focused on self-care when working with someone who self harms and availing of supervision.