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

CR158. Self-harm, Suicide and Risk: Helping People who Self-harm

Price: £0.00

Approved: Apr 2010

Published: Jun 2010

Status: current

Number of pages: 138

Review by: 2015

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Self-harm is poorly understood in society even among those who in their working lives as school teachers, pastors, social workers, housing officers, police, prison officers and even nurses and doctors encounter people who harm themselves. People who harm themselves are subject to stigma and hostility. In contrast to the trends in completed suicide, the incidence of selfharm has continued to rise in the UK over the past 20 years and, for young people at least, is said to be among the highest in Europe. This high level of self-harm among different age and social groups is a worrying feature of our society.


The focus of this report is to enquire into and report on why people harm and kill themselves and to consider the role (including the limits of the role) that psychiatrists and other mental healthcare professionals play in their care and treatment. The experiences and views of people who harm themselves as well as those of their carers, health professionals and third-sector workers are central to this enquiry. As there is much policy and guidance on self-harm and suicide prevention, the report does not attempt to retrace this same ground but rather examines the evidence of practice on the ground, including the implementation of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines on self-harm (National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, 2004, now out of print).


The report is divided into three parts. In Part I, we give some background information on self-harm in the UK and on understanding why people harm themselves. In Part II, we examine some of the public health policy issues, and in Part III we concentrate on the practice of healthcare professionals and others who work with people who have harmed themselves and are at risk of harming themselves, as evidenced particularly by a survey and consultations with College Members and Faculties. The important role of the third sector is also examined.


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