Self-harm is a big public health subject for young people in the UK. Self-harm is a deliberate practice of hurting one’s self and is usually done in secret from other people. This behaviour can go on for a long time before being discovered by concerned people. This practice affects one out of fifteen young people. This practice blots their future and their relationships to their family and friends. This is a tough challenge for those who work with young people especially at school, hospitals and even in the local community. The practice of self-harm includes the following:

  • cutting
  • scalding
  • burning
  • scratching the body
  • hair pulling
  • breaking bones
  • taking in toxic substances 

Self-harm and the young people

A portion of young people, estimated at 12 years of age, and adults perform self-harming practices. The average for adults is 25 years old or older. The number of people who practice self-harm is low for adults and is relatively higher for those who are aged 11 to 25 years old.

Self-harm may be an underlying cause for mental or emotional stress. Young people who practice this may do so because they have no other means of dealing with their problems. There are a lot of factors that could cause the young people to do self-harm and the main thing that studies found is that they faced daily stress. Other factors include the following:

  • academic pressures
  • feeling isolated
  • being bullied
  • suicide or self-harm done by someone whom the young person knows
  • low self-esteem
  • family problems like separation or divorce of the parents

Self-harm is never a good way to deal with problems. It only provides temporary relief. This does not solve the real issues.

Little studies have been done to know the prevalence of the practice t young people. Records have shown that around 142,000 young people who get admitted in the emergency department of hospitals were being treated for self-harm problems. Majority of the young people harm themselves in such a way that they do not need medical attention. They could treat themselves if necessary. Studies have shown that one out of twelve and one out of fifteen young people who reside in UK do self-harm. In some studies, UK has the highest rate of self-harm for Europe.


There are ways to prevent self-harm in young people. Preventing the child from getting bullied and checking the whole school’s approach design may help improve the mental well-being of the child. This produces positive effects but there are no specific confirmations of their effects on self-harm.

Young people have said that they felt socially isolated and that they believed that they were the only ones who do the practice. If the young people are well-informed of the consequences of performing self-harm, then it could help prevent them from doing it. Also, the parents or the guardians of the youth should also be well-informed about this issue. By doing so, the adults can give a positive outlook for the young people to emulate.

Good responses for young people and self-harm

There are a lot of services in the UK which cater to the young people who perform self-harm. Studies have shown that young people benefit greatly from these services but there is no evidence to prove their effectiveness. Having the young people distracted from their self-harm practices like using a red pen to mark their skins instead of cutting them, rubbing their skin with ice or hitting punching bags to ease their tension can help them not to hurt themselves.


Young people who perform self-harm are a major issue for public health. The prevalence of this practice should be studied more as soon as possible. The young people, as well as their family and parents, should be well-informed of the consequences of self-harm in order for the practice to be prevented. There is also a need to study which preventive methods are most effective for self-harm in young people.