Teachers need more support to tackle self-harm

84% of secondary school teachers have taught a student who they believe self-harms in the last year, according to a survey by mental health charity YoungMinds.

Released Friday 1 March 2019 

Today, on Self-Harm Awareness Day (1st March), YoungMinds is highlighting the need to ensure that teachers have support in identifying and responding to self-harm.

The charity has found that often teachers are the first point of call for students who need mental health support, but have limited training on how to respond or what action to take.

The charity carried out a survey of more than 3,000 secondary school teachers, which showed that:

  • 84% of secondary school teachers have taught a student who they believe self-harms in the last year
  • 77% of secondary school teachers do not believe they have had sufficient training on children and young people’s mental health
  • While 36% feel confident knowing how to support young people with mental health issues, 35% do not feel confident.
  • While 39% feel confident knowing how and when to refer young people to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, 37% do not feel confident. [1]

Research by NHS Digital in 2018 suggested that 48% of young people had sought help from their teachers when struggling with their mental health – a higher figure than any for other professional. [2]

Emma Thomas, CEO of YoungMinds, said: “The vast majority of secondary school teachers have first-hand experience of teaching a child who is self-harming, but too often they haven’t had enough training or support to know how best to respond to their needs.

“The reasons why a young person may self-harm are multiple and complex, but it’s vital that when they reach out to someone about it, they are met with the best possible help and advice.

“We know that teachers do a great job of supporting young people in many instances, but it can also be hard to know what to say, when to take action or how to support someone.

“That’s why we’ve created a range of resources for teachers, to help them feel more confident in supporting a young person who may seek their help. And we also need to make sure that schools have the skills and support they need to ensure that they can make wellbeing and mental health a priority.”

Chris Martin, Chief Executive of The Mix, said:

"In our last survey of users at The Mix we found that there are a large number of professionals, such as teachers and GPs, looking for information on behalf of young people. 

“With an increase in self-harm being reported and teachers sometimes being the first port of call, it's important that they have the knowledge and confidence to offer support and signpost young people to services that can help, such as The Mix. We know that YoungMinds's new resource pack will be an important tool to ensure that young people can get access to the support they need."

The YoungMinds resources include:   

  • A video about self-harm
  • Advice for having a conversation about self-harm 
  • Information from young people who have experience of self-harm
  • A guide for how to help a young person self-harming

YoungMinds also offers training courses for teachers on self-harm. And its 360° Schools’ Community offers advice and support to teachers about wellbeing and mental health. More than 6,000 teachers and school staff have signed up to the community. YoungMinds is also currently campaigning for wellbeing to be made a priority in schools, and encouraging supporters to #TellOfsted why they think this is important. 

For Self-Harm Awareness Day, The Mix has created a video campaign to raise awareness around different types of self-harm, and the feelings that can lead to self-harm. Three individual videos tell the stories of three young people, with voiceovers in the form of poems to tell their stories. It is hoped that this will also assist teachers, family and friends to spot signs of self-harm that might not be obvious and offer support. The videos also remind users that, if they are struggling with any of these issues, The Mix is there to help.



  1. Figures are taken from a YoungMinds survey hosted on surveygizmo.eu in August and September 2018, and promoted through paid advertising targeting teachers on social media. 3,257 secondary school teachers took part in the survey.
  2. Mental Health of Children and Young people in England, 2017: https://files.digital.nhs.uk/0B/A3A3F0/MHCYP%202017%20Service%20Use.pdf


We are the leading charity fighting for young people’s mental health. We’re leading the fight for a future where all young minds are supported through life, whatever the challenges. We’re here to make sure they get the best possible mental health support and have the resilience to overcome life’s difficulties.

For further information please visit www.youngminds.org.uk

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook @youngmindsuk

We publish advice for young people and parents about self-harm on our website.

For free advice and support for parents, call our helpline on 0808 802 5544


The Mix is a free, confidential information and crisis support service for under 25s, helping over 3 million young people in the UK every year. Whatever issue a young person is facing, The Mix is always there for them - online, over the phone, via text or social media. 

Today’s young people face an unprecedented range of challenges that underpin a shocking rise in mental health problems. The Mix provides advice, peer support, signposting and access to online counsellors to ensure that every young person can make informed choices about their mental wellbeing – wherever and whenever they are. For more information visit www.themix.org.uk

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