Samaritans Cymru, the leading charity for crisis support and suicide prevention, has today published a new report, The Right Support At The Right Time? – Improving the availability and quality of support after self-harm in Wales, which brings together insights from people with lived experience of self-harm, stakeholders, service-providers and the general public to understand the support needs of people who have self-harmed and identify opportunities to improve the quality of support available.
The charity is calling for mental health support and therapies to be more easily accessible for people who have self-harmed, so that this support is available as an early intervention. The research found that people who have self-harmed in Wales are being excluded from services as they do not meet the criteria for mental health support. The consequence is that people are not being offered help at an early stage, which in turn leads to them experiencing more serious levels of distress and self-harming behaviours.
“I have an ongoing struggle with self-harm. However, I’m not eligible for treatment because I don’t meet the criteria. They shouldn’t be pushing people to meet that level of ill-health before they get help – this is a firefighting approach.” – A person with lived-experience of self-harm
The research also highlighted how deep and entrenched stigma around self-harm can create barriers to help-seeking from friends and family. It’s evident that there’s a need to increase guidance to supporters of people who have self-harmed to reduce stigma and encourage more people to open up.
A survey of over 900 adults in Wales found that while the vast majority agreed that self-harm is a serious issue and want to see further action to address it, less than half (47%) of respondents said they would know how to support someone close to them if they were self-harming. The same survey found that nearly 1 in 3 (31%) adults would not feel comfortable talking to their partner or close family about self-harm, while nearly 2 in 5 (39%) would not feel comfortable talking about it with friends. Over two thirds (62%) of the general public in Wales said they would not feel comfortable talking to a GP or another healthcare professional about self-harm.
Sarah Stone, Executive Director for Wales said:
“Our research highlights that people in Wales are facing barriers to receiving the right support at the right time. Access to timely interventions from appropriate services are often difficult to secure and thresholds for secondary care are high. People are not being offered help at an early enough stage, which in turn leads to them experiencing more serious levels of distress and self-harming behaviours”.
People with lived experience, service providers and stakeholders spoke of the need for compassionate and trauma informed responses to self-harm. Care must be person-centred, there must be no wrong door. There must be a wider understanding of what works in supporting certain groups and communities, including BAME communities, LGBTQ+ communities and people from lower-income households in Wales.
The coronavirus pandemic is having an ongoing impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people across the UK and Ireland. During the months of lockdown, callers spoke about how they were feeling increasingly lonely, anxious and distressed. While it is too early to know the long-term impact of the pandemic on self-harm, these insights make getting people the right support at the right time even more critical.
Our latest report, released today, offers some points for consideration around how we can ensure better support for people who self-harm. Our report is a contribution to this much needed debate, and we hope it will stimulate further thinking, understanding and action.
The Right Support At The Right Time? – Improving the availability and quality of support after self-harm in Wales, explores the experiences and needs of people with lived experience of self-harm and calls for more urgent action to ensure people get the right help at the right time.