Truth Hurts report

This content mentions self-harm. Please read with care. There are details of where to find help at the bottom of this page.

This is the final report of the National Inquiry into self-harm among young people.

This report sets out an agenda for change. Over and over again, the young people we heard from told us that their experience of asking for help often made their situation worse. Many of them have met with ridicule or hostility from the professionals they have turned to. Our intention is that this report will serve as a turning point in understanding self-harm and be a launch pad for changes in the prevention of, and responses to, self-harm among young people in the UK

Truth hurts report cover

Self-harm among young people is a major public health issue in the UK. It affects at least one in 15 young people and some evidence suggests that rates of self-harm in the UK are higher than anywhere else in Europe. Self-harm blights the lives of young people and seriously affects their relationships with families and friends. It presents a major challenge to all those in services and organisations that work with young people, from schools through to hospital accident and emergency departments.

Levels of self-harm are one indicator of the mental health and mental well-being of young people in our society in general. Recently there has been a shift in government strategies, across the UK, towards recognising and promoting better mental health and emotional well-being for all children and young people. These initiatives may eventually do a great deal to reduce self-harm among young people but the Inquiry found that implementation to date is patchy and there is not yet an adequate evidence base specific to self-harm.

This Inquiry set out to try and find the definitive answers to the key questions:

  • what is self-harm
  • how common is it among young people
  • can it be prevented
  • how can we respond better to young people who self-harm.

Self-harm describes a wide range of things that people do to themselves in a deliberate and usually hidden way. In the vast majority of cases self-harm remains a secretive behaviour that can go on for a long time without being discovered. Self-harm can involve:

  • cutting
  • burning
  • scalding
  • banging or scratching one’s own body
  • breaking bones
  • hair pulling
  • ingesting toxic substances or objects.

Young people who self-harm mainly do so because they have no other way of coping with problems and emotional distress in their lives. This can be to do with factors ranging from bullying to family breakdown. But self-harm is not a good way of dealing with such problems. It provides only temporary relief and does not deal with the underlying issues. Although some very young children are known to self-harm, and some adults too, the Inquiry focused on young people aged between 11 and 25 years because rates of self-harm are much higher among young people, and the average age of onset is 12 years old.

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If you are feeling like ending your life or feel unable to keep yourself safe, please call 999 or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress. If you feel affected by the content you have read, please see our get help page for support.

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