Safeguarding children from self-harm and suicide

Any child or young person who self-harms or expresses thoughts about this or about suicide has to be taken seriously and appropriate help and intervention offered at that point.  This procedure applies to all staff of agencies represented on the Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) in the Tees area.



Definitions and Meanings

  • Self Harm: The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) has adopted the definition that self-harm is 'self-poisoning or self-injury, irrespective of the apparent purpose of the act'.
  • Attempted Suicide: Self-harm with intent to take life, resulting in non-fatal injury.
  • Suicide: Self-harm, resulting in death.
  • Responding to Incidents of Self Harm or Suicide

Ensure your own personal safety:

  •  Do not get involved physically if the young person is distressed and threatening unless they are deemed to be at risk to themselves or others.
  • Call for assistance (see step 3 below), particularly if someone is in need of immediate medical first aid.
  • Remove access to means of suicide or self-harm if necessary
  • Observe from a safe position until help arrives.

Ensure the young person is not left alone:

  • Stay with them if you think that the risk of suicide is high and arrange for someone to be with them while they get through the immediate crisis.

Seek immediate help (depending on circumstance):

  • Call emergency 999 if the young person is in need of immediate medical Help and inform parent/carer (consider capacity and consent issues)
  • Arrange for the young person to be taken to a hospital Accident and Emergency Department accompanied by parent/carer and inform their GP.
  • Seek advice from NHS Direct (0845 4647) where information and advice is available in culturally appropriate languages if required.

 If the young person is consuming alcohol or drugs, try to discourage them from taking any more.

Encourage the young person to talk:

  • Listen without judgement
  • Be polite and respectful
  • Do not deny or challenge their feelings
  • Do not try to give advice
  • Try to gain an understanding of their current situation and any known precipitant
  • Gather as much information as possible to contribute to the best possible assessment of risk to the young person
  • Offer support and explain that you are concerned and will need to discuss this with someone else give reassurance that help is available and that their future may have other options
  • Refer to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service for Psycho-Social and Risk Assessment.

As soon as possible:

  • Let your manager and nominated first aider know
  • Document the incident accurately

Where the Young Person is a Carer for a Child or Pregnant

Where a young person, who is a carer for a child or vulnerable adult, or is pregnant, self-harms, or threatens this, a referral must be made to Childrens Social Care in respect of the young person themselves and their child / unborn baby.

Where Child/Young Person involved in Family Court Proceedings

Where the child or young person is currently the subject of Family Court Proceedings, whether public or private law, the Court must be informed of any self-harm or attempted suicide incident.

Flowchart - Self Harm or Intent to Self Harm Procedure



Useful Tools/Pathways, Contacts and Websites:

  • Tees Multi Agency Self harm Pathway for Children & Young People Self_Harm_Pathway.pdf
  • National Self harm Network – Provides a selection of literature and campaigns for people who self-harm. PO Box 16190, London, NW1 3WW
  • Self-harm and Related Issues –
  • Eating Disorders Association – now called BEAT – Information and support.
  • Young Minds – for young people's mental health
  • Child line for young people in trouble or danger. Freephone, 24 hours, 0800 1111
  • Mind info line Information on mental distress and treatment including self-harm. Monday – Friday, 9.15am – 5.15pm - 08457 660 163
  • The Samaritans – 08457 909 090 (24hours)
  • Sane line – Info and advice on mental health issues including self harm and eating disorders.

Further Reading

  • Everybody Hurts - (Newham Asian Women’s Project)
  • ‘By their own Hand’ - Keith Hawton/Sue Rodham

More information