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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

RCPsych comments on websites which feature images promoting self-harm

Embargoed until 12 March 2010

Commenting on a new investigation into self-harm among young people by BBC Newsbeat, Dr Margaret Murphy, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said:

"The Royal College of Psychiatrists is seriously concerned by the recent growth in the number of internet sites featuring images and video footage of young people engaging in self harm, and in particular sites which appear to promote self harm.

"Self harm is a major problem affecting many young people. About 1 in 10 young people will self harm at some point, and recent surveys have found that Britain has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe. The reasons behind self harm are often complex. We know that self harm is associated with mental distress, often in the context of stressful life events or circumstances which the young person is struggling to cope with. Self harm may also be associated with illnesses such as depression. Websites which appear to romanticise self harm may stop young people from seeking help and instead promote self harm as a solution to their problems.

"The Royal College of Psychiatrists calls upon all website owners and moderators to ensure that material, images and commentary which appear to promote or romanticise self harm are removed. We also call on them to ensure that any online content relating to self harm is accompanied by information about relevant organisations which can offer advice and support. The Samaritans has issued guidelines for journalists on the responsible reporting and portrayal of suicide and self-harm, and we urge new media to adopt these guidelines as well.

"This research by BBC Newsbeat demonstrates that there is a need for more accessible, youth-friendly mental health services for young people, and easier access to advice for parents. We also need more research into this area to better understand self harm, as well as providing help for people when it happens."

For further information, please contact:
Sarah Nevins
Press & Social Media Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2543
Claire McLoughlin
Media & Communications Manager 
Telephone: 020 3701 2544
Out of hours contact number: 07860 755896


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