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Truth Hurts Report of the National Inquiry into Self-harm among Young People

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.