Somerset’s young people need more help to deal with stress in healthy ways, the county’s Public Health lead says in a report published this week.
Trudi Grant, the Somerset Director of Public Health, has used her annual report to highlight the importance of emotional resilience amongst young people as a way of tackling rising levels of self-harm.
The report calls for greater understanding and continued de-stigmatisation of self-harm. And it high-lights the need for open and honest conversations with young people and promotion of more positive responses to stressful situations.
“Mental health challenges and rising levels self-harm amongst young people is a national issue so it’s no surprise that it is an issue in Somerset too,” said Trudi.
“The causes can be complicated and unclear; but is a way of expressing emotional feelings or coping with traumatic or stressful events.
“Stressful situations, are part of life, but you can help young people learn to cope with them in positive ways – things like talking, listening to music, talking to friends, doing exercise – it’s only by doing this that we learn and help yourself deal with it.
“It’s important that adults, especially parents, role-model healthy and positive ways of dealing with stressful situations. Children learn from what they see at home or from people who are close to them.”
Self-harm is defined as the intentional act of self-injury as an expression of emotional distress and can mean anything from scratching yourself or pulling your own hair, to serious self-injury and self-poisoning.
The report looks at two sources of data on self-harm in Somerset: emergency hospital admissions and responses to a question on a survey of secondary school children.
Hospital admissions show increasing numbers, particularly for girls and young women aged 10-24, with a peak around the age of 15. These are mostly one-off rather than repeat admissions and Somerset levels are higher than both the regional and national averages. Readmission rates for Somerset are lower than the regional and national averages.
The survey carried out this spring, found 28 per cent of girls and 19 per cent of boys reporting that they sometimes hurt themselves in some way when they felt stressed or worried.
Councillor Christine Lawrence, Cabinet member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “Lots of good work is happening in schools and more and there more useful support online.
“But the most important thing that we can do all do is talk to young people and break down the stigma associated with self-harm. The conversation we need to be having is ‘what led you to feel the need to hurt yourself?’ not ‘why would you do that to yourself?’”
The County Council’s Public Health Team organises an ‘Emotion Coaching’ programme with schools, teaching pupils and teachers the principles of resilience and stress management.
There is also useful information and support available online, including the Kooth service (www.kooth.com), which offers online support and counselling for young people aged 11 to 18.
Young people from Somerset have also helped produce ‘Life Hacks’ guides which give friendly tips on looking after your own and your friends’ mental health (https://www.cypsomersethealth.org/new_lifehacks)
Lots of useful information, for professionals, children, parents and carers is available on the Somerset Children & Young People Health & Wellbeing website (https://www.cypsomersethealth.org/sh) and the Young Minds website (www.youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/self-harm/)
If you have been affected by issues of self-harm please contact the Samaritans. Volunteers are ordinary people who provide a safe place for people to talk. Tel 116 123 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org. website www.samaritans.org