Self Harm in Young People

Between one in twelve and one in fifteen young people self-harm – this is not a small issue in the UK.

Self-harm is when a young person chooses to inflict some harm to themselves. There are multiple ways young people might choose to do this. Unfortunately, people often think it is due to them seeking attention but this is rarely the truth. Normally young people are self-harming as they dislike themselves intensely or because they are struggling with some emotional pain and physical pain is preferable to those intense emotions.

How to respond to finding out about self-harm as a parent:

Self-harm is so distressing to parents and at times they react in a way which is not the best response. The way that someone responds when a young person is first brave enough to tell someone that they are self-harming will affect whether they open up about it and accept support in the future. The best way to react is calmly. Explain to the young person that you understand that they must be feeling really distressed to have self-harmed and that you want to help understand the issues that are leading to this to help them address them and assist them in learning new ways to cope. Do not push them to tell you everything there and then but encourage them to communicate with you in some way, (through text, writing or talking), as and when they feel calm and ready to do so. Reassure them you will not over-react and ask them if there is anything they would like you to do or not do when they speak to you.

I would let the young person know there are helplines such as Samaritans and ChildLine that they can access at any point confidentially and that there are apps they can download for their phone which will help them distract themselves when they are feeling distressed.

It is sensible to lock away medications if you have a young person at home who is self harming.

I would try and form a communication system with them that allows you to have some idea of their risk. For example, see if you can get them to agree to you asking if they are red, amber or green morning and night. Sit with them to understand what the different traffic light colours would mean and how they would want you to react to each colour.

If you are very worried about their safety, do not delay in accessing help.

What help is available

There may be many underlying causes for a young person self-harming and I would advise that you see your GP and get a referral for a psychiatric assessment for any young person who is self-harming. This will allow appropriate support and treatment.

If you feel they need emergency help due to suicide risk you can always access urgent help via A&E.

Below are written comments from feedback from recent young people who have been seen by her in her clinic:

Dr Hayley and her colleagues provide outstanding accessible compassionate and effective care for young people with emotional and mental health difficulties including ADHD. We can not thank her and her colleagues enough for the extraordinary difference they have made to my son’s well- being and helping him approach his full academic potential.
Hayley was wonderful. She engaged with my son beautifully despite his almost constant hyperactivity and chattiness during the appointment! She has a lovely warm approach while remaining very professional and highly knowledgable. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her.
I was highly recommended to yourselves by someone who had previously been to see you. I will also highly recommend you also. My husband and I Felt very at ease during the whole process.

Dr Hayley is phenomenal – she has transformed our daughters life and we are grateful every day that we found Dr Hayley and got the help we so desperately needed.

I really thought I was going to lose my daughter. Lose her to her own despair and potentially her own life. I searched for what seems like too long to find her the support, acknowledgment and treatment she needed. Finding Dr H was not just a life line but a true life changer. The care, understanding and treatment my daughter has received is truly outstanding. With Dr H’s consultation and understanding, my daughter has been able to reconcile her feelings of despair and inadequacy. I now have a confident, happy, social daughter who is starting university in the autumn and is looking forward to life. I can not thank you enough Dr H. Honestly, thank you so very much.
Lovely Dr who was there to listen and help anyway possible. Full in detail and good natured with myself and my son. Got a lot from it and finally felt we were listened too. Lots of advice and next steps to follow.
Brilliant Doctor, I gave up and Dr Hayley picked me back up and got be back to myself. I feel like she actually cares and respects what I say.
Dr Hayley she is a amazing person, very caring, patient and helpful
The doctor was really personable and helped to make my son feel comfortable, she asked great questions to elicit information to help the diagnosis and was very good at listening to our feedback
Dr Hayley is very supportive and I would thoroughly recommend her through this organisation

Dr Hayley is always really professional but totally relatable and understanding. Would definitely recommend her to others.

Very happy with Dr Hayley. She She’s very kind and makes us feel at ease within the session. listens carefully to problem and tries to recommend a right solution. She’s very prompt in replying emails or in event of asking for prescription, which itself has made me feeling better in the stressful situations we have been experiencing. I am very happy with her and would recommend to others. Thank you Dr Hayley.🙏🏼🌸

Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg is a very good doctor
Dr van Zwanenburg put my 10 year old at ease immediately which helped her open up
Dr Hayley saved me from suicide and helped me turn my life around. She is the best!
Dr Hayley has made my child’s life happy again, and our families too. She has identified and helped him with his anxiety and adhd. Her practice is run with precision and care with excellent communication from Dr Hayley and her team. I can’t thank them enough.
Very early in our treatment but Dr Hayley has already made a huge improvement to our daughter and her health.
Dr Hayley was wonderful with my son. She put him at ease very quickly and consequently he was very happy to open up to her and talk freely. Thank you so much.
Very approachable and friendly style, felt that she really listened and put our anxious daughter at ease. Explained very clearly what the problem was and how we were going to deal with it as a team. Highly recommend.
Hayley was amazing with my daughter and she felt very reassured that she would help her get back to her old self!
So happy my son is finally getting the help he needs to free himself of a life of anxiety. Thank you.
Thank you, I am very grateful for your professional, committed and caring approach that underpins your clients’ healing of minds, developing self-confidence and sustainable growth as autonomous individuals in becoming. I hope you recognise you save lives and give hope with your calm faith that your clients will, and do get better.
Thank you ever so much for a very thorough assessment.
Dr Hayley was very calming and listened carefully to my concerns
Can’t recommend Dr van Zwanenberg enough for child ASD/ADHD assessment and follow up. She’s very empathetic & puts everyone in the family at ease.
Dr Hayley is the only doctor that we trust to help us with our daughter’s mental health; more importantly, our daughter also trusts her. She genuinely cares. She talks to her, understands her and engages with her and us. She quickly identifies the problem and suggests realistic, pro active plans to tackle the particular issues at hand. She is always available for us to contact by phone and email (no matter how small the problem) and has telephoned us during the day and sometimes in the evening when the situation requires it. As parents, we have at times really struggled but she always manages to reassure us and we feel very lucky to have her as our doctor.
Van Zwanenberg was able to see us much more quickly than we had expected for which we were very grateful, and we were touched by the level of care and personal attention we and our son were afforded when we met. The speed, depth and quality of the written follow up was impressive, too.
Without Doctor Hayley I am certain I would not be alive today and she has been a massive help to me and my family.
Thank you so much for a faultless service. I’ve recommended you already to friends!
An excellent doctor who is thorough and non-judgemental and takes a collaborative approach.
We love Dr Hayley. She is the only person my daughter will engage with. She has been incredibly helpful in all kinds of ways, not only with medication but with diagnosis, advice and referrals. My daughter has come along way since seeing Dr Hayley
Dr Hayley has been very good for my daughter – she has been kind, caring and has explained her condition to us very well. My daughter was really poorly but is now well on the way to a good recovery thanks to Dr Hayley’s treatment and care.
As always Dr Hayley was fantastic. She is always one step ahead and any additional admin requests etc are never too much bother. We will be sorry to lose her, as my daughter moves on soon to an adult psychiatrist now that she’s 18. I will be surprised if we can get such attentive service from any other psychiatrist. Many thanks indeed for your amazing support over the past few years.
Dr van Zwanenberg was fantastic, everything we’d hoped for.
She is so kind and supportive
The level of care and communication from Hayley has been exceptional throughout and I have already strongly recommended her to several other parents.
Very good doctor.
Dr Hayley probably saved my son’s life. A great Doctor.
Dr van Zwanenberg’s tone, manner & approach was perfect for our child, she listened to us all and helped set wheels in motion. Thank you
Dr hayley is always so positive and encouraging. She listens well, is very professional and is very calming. Always a positive and helpful experience. My daughter won’t speak to any therapists however she is happy to open up to Dr Hayley. Thank you.
Dr Hayley was incredibly thorough, supportive and engaged. My daughters confidence with the process soared and throughout the 2.5 hour process. I am profoundly grateful that expertise and care exists in professionals like Dr Hayley. She is life-changingly good.

We have received a very positive experience using Dr van Zwanenberg. We have felt listened to and supported without any judgement getting our daughters autism diagnosis. We would highly recommend.

Dr van Zwanenberg was very friendly and put my son at ease so he felt comfortable to talk openly. She was very reassuring and seemed to understand him straight away.
Very happy with the service Dr Hayley has provided.
Thank you so much. Straight forward. Caring. & already actioning a plan. I’ve recommended you to two people already
Empathetic, caring!
As always Dr Hayley listens, is empathetic, encouraging and non-judgemental and gives sound professional advice. Thank you.
When dealing with a person with mental illness it is essential that the patient feels that they are being believed by the Doctor who provides the treatment. Dr van Zwanenberg is able to build trust and rapport and is sympathetic, understanding and non judgmental in her approach.
We feel blessed that Dr van Zwanenberg was available when my daughter was referred. It was a relief for my daughter to be understood and feel that there was hope for getting better. Dr van Zwanenberg has been endlessly kind and provided the expertise needed so that we felt completely supported. Although we have not had to use it a lot she has been available for advice in between appointments, which again adds to our feeling of being well supported. We would wholeheartedly recommend her and know she would do the best for anyone who came to see her.
Dr Hayley is such a lovely and compassionate psychiatrist. She has transformed the life of my son. I am so grateful.
Very friendly and helpful.
Very kind and knowledgeable
Hayley has always been very accessible and helpful if we’ve needed to contact her between appointments.
She is very helpful
Dr H has made a lasting improvement on both my daughters’ states of mind and their approach and outlook to life. I can not rate her services highly enough.
Dr Hayley took an impressive amount of care in advance of our initial assessment appointment, to evaluate our son’s situation from many angles. We felt listened to and reassaured by her suggestions of strategies to help manage his symptoms. My son commented after the appointment that “She was vey kind and understood me”. We have also appreciated her quick responses to our questions outside of the appointment itself