Rising Pressures on Self Harm and Suicide Prevention Services Across the UK

By Caroline Harroe (Harmless CEO)

Self harm and suicide are major public health concerns in the UK. In 2021, there were 6,380 suicides registered in England and Wales, and an estimated 100,000 people were admitted to hospital as a result of self harm. Self harm is particularly common among young people, with one in eight young people aged 17–24 reporting having self harmed in the past year. In recent years, there has been a rising pressure on self harm and suicide prevention services across the UK. This is due to a number of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

Impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health, including an increase in self harm and suicide rates. This is likely due to a number of factors, including social isolation, anxiety about the pandemic and financial difficulties. A study by the University of Manchester found that rates of self harm among young people in the UK increased by 40% during the first lockdown. Another study found that the number of calls to suicide prevention helplines increased by 25% during the pandemic.

Impact of the cost of living crisis
The cost of living crisis is also having a negative impact on mental health. People who are struggling to make ends meet are more likely to experience anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. A study by the Mental Health Foundation found that nearly half of people in the UK (47%) are worried about the impact of the cost of living crisis on their mental health. The study also found that people who are struggling financially are more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

Increased demand for services
The rising demand for self harm and suicide prevention services is putting a strain on existing resources. Many services are struggling to meet the needs of their users and there are long waiting times for treatment. A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention found that young people who self harm are finding it hard to access the mental health services they need in a timely manner. The report also found that young people have been ‘bounced’ between services, causing them to struggle to access immediate critical support (1).

What Harmless CIC is doing?
Harmless CIC is an organisation that provides support to people who self harm and their families. The organisation offers a range of services, including crisis support, one-to-one counselling and group support. Harmless works to address the rising pressure on self harm and suicide prevention services by providing a range of support services that are accessible and affordable. The organisation is also working to raise awareness of self harm and suicide, and to challenge the stigma associated with these issues. Harmless is also active in all relevant Government Advisory Groups which keeps the voice of those we help alive and heard around the decision-making tables.

How to help
There are a number of things that you can do to help people who are struggling with self harm and suicide.

  • If you are concerned about someone who is self harming or suicidal, talk to them about your concerns. Let them know that you are there for them and that you want to help.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help. You can help them to find a therapist or counsellor who specialises in self harm and suicide prevention.
  • Support them in their recovery. This may involve helping them to develop coping mechanisms, setting goals for themselves and celebrating their successes.

You can also support Harmless in our work to fight for those in need of life-saving help. Here are a few ways you can get involved:

  • Donate to the organisation. Your donation will help to fund the organisation’s vital support services.
  • Volunteer your time. Harmless relies on volunteers to help deliver its services.
  • Raise awareness of self harm and suicide. You can do this by talking to your friends and family about these issues or by sharing Harmless’ content on social media. Self Harm Awareness Day on 1st March is the perfect opportunity to get involved – you can find out more information here.

The rising pressure on self harm and suicide prevention services is a serious concern. However, there are a number of things that we can do to help. By talking to people who are struggling, encouraging them to seek professional help and supporting them in their recovery, we can make a difference.

(1) All-Party Parliamentary Group on Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention (2022). Access to mental health services for young people who self-harm. Retrieved from: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/written-evidence/