A conference is to take place examining why so many young people in Peterborough and the surrounding area are self-harming – and what can be done to spot the signs and help them at an earlier stage.
It is being organised by mental and community health organisation, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), and Peterborough City Council. Healthwatch Peterborough is also supporting the event and has worked with CPFT on two surveys which ask young people, and those work with them, their views on self harm.
Anna Bettles, team manager for CPFT’s children and adolescent mental health, said the issue of children and young people had been a “taboo subject for too long", and that all those who come into contact with youngsters have a responsibility to support them.
Anna said: “In recent years, the numbers of young people who are self-harming have risen. This is a national problem, not just one that confined to Peterborough, but locally we’re in a position to help to try to tackle the issue.
“At CPFT, we see children and young people who are in the most severe need. But working to reduce levels of self-harm – and improving mental health generally – is not just the job of the NHS.
“That’s why we’re inviting representatives from schools, youth groups, family-support groups, and people from a range of organisations who work with young people, and we’ll also hear testimonies from young people who have self-harmed.
“I believe this has been a taboo subject for too long, and it may be uncomfortable to some people. But it is happening, and we need to get more people talking about it. But to try to reduce this problem, it is going to take all those who come into contact with young people to have a better understanding of self harm, to be able to recognise the signs at an early stage, and to take positive action.”
According to the Mental Health Foundation, the UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe, at 400 per 100,000 population.
People with current mental health problems are 20 times more likely than others to report having harmed themselves in the past.
Figures collated by Peterborough City Council, which commissions children’s social care, show that between April 2013 and January 2015, there were 399 hospital admissions of young people (under 24 and below) to Peterborough City Hospital because of self-harm. The number of hospital admissions is 40 per cent above the national average.
Anna added: “The reasons for why children and young people self-harm are not straight forward and there is a lot of ongoing research into the subject. But we know that mental health issues, the pressures that young people feel, and the impact of social media, can all be major contributing factors. It is not, as some may think, about attention-seeking because the vast majority of young people who do self-harm, do it in secret.
“Overall though, there are young people who have self-harmed, who are now in recovery. So it’s important that young people – and their families – understand they can stop, seek help, and that there is hope and help out there.”
Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, corporate director of people and communities for Peterborough City Council, said: “I am pleased that agencies and organisations in Peterborough are working together to ensure that we provide children and young people with the help and support they need. The City Council is committed to making sure children and young people know where to go when they need help and that they get the right support.”
Healthwatch Peterborough has also conducted work with young people in Peterborough and in schools. Its research, based on national figures, has shown self-harm is a concern and has backed the need for greater understanding about the issue and how all those who work with young people can improve their response.
CPFT and Healthwatch Peterborough is conducting two surveys – one for young people, and another aimed at members of the public and professionals working with young people – to assess the levels of understanding of self-harm.
To take part in the young person’s survey visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DZBVZ3Z
To take the public and professional survey go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2KLK5FT
The conference, which is by invitation only, takes place on Thursday, 1 October at the Kingsgate Conference Centre, Peterborough.