There are many reasons why children and young people try to hurt themselves. And once they start, it can become a compulsion. This is why it is important to offer support and guidance as soon as any signs of self-harm are spotted.

Self-harm isn’t usually a suicide attempt or a cry for attention. Instead, it’s often a way for young people to release overwhelming emotions. It’s a way of coping. So whatever the reason, it should be taken seriously. (NSPCC)

It is a very common behaviour in young people and affects around one in 12 people with 10% of 15-16 year olds self-harming. (YoungMinds)

How to spot the warning signs

Young people will go to great lengths to cover self-harm scars and injuries. If you do spot them they might be explained away as accidents.

The signs to look for – divided into the physical and emotional.

Physical signs of self-harm

These are commonly on the wrists, arms, thighs, head and chest and include:

  • cuts
  • bruises
  • burns
  • bald patches (from pulling out hair)

Young people who self-harm are also very likely to keep themselves covered up in long-sleeved clothes even when it’s really hot.

Emotional signs of self-harm

The emotional signs are harder to spot and don’t necessarily mean that a young person is self-harming. But if you see any of these as well as any of the physical signs then there may be cause for concern.

  • depression, tearfulness and low motivation
  • becoming withdrawn and isolated, for example wanting to be alone in their bedroom for long periods
  • unusual eating habits; sudden weight loss or gain
  • low self-esteem and self-blame
  • drinking or taking drugs


If you are concerned about your child self-harming, please seek support and advice through taking your child to their GP’s and contacting school so support can be put into place.

The following website links have valuable information to help support your child: