Is it Simply a Way of Seeking Attention?

Self-Harm – Is it Simply a Way of Seeking Attention?

This has been written for us by Dr Tina Rae, an HCPC registered Educational and Child Psychologist, Author and Educational Consultant.

Self-harm can affect men, women and children at different points in their lives. It is a topic discussed more openly in today’s media savvy world of the young, both in and out of school contexts.  

Self-harming behaviours are almost by definition secretive, and parents and carers frequently will not know what is happening. Such behaviours may include the following:

Taking too many tablets



Banging or scratching their own bodies

Breaking bones

Pulling hair

Swallowing toxic substances or other inappropriate objects

What is vital, is that we understand that self-harming is not attention seeking behaviour, but rather attention needing. 

Young people self-harm to manage deep psychological pain.  For most young people it is a means of staying alive, rather than a precursor to suicide.

It is most important that we understand the need to educate young people about self-harm.  They will tend to talk to a friend first, so this means that the friend needs to know how to respond; what to say and what not to say, and where to go for help and advice.

Many professionals are frightened of the topic of self-harm and do not feel they have the skills to respond to young people. They also fear that talking about this topic will lead to an epidemic of self-harm.  This is not the case.  If the topic of self-harm is introduced in a safe and responsible way, it will increase understanding and confidence in terms of providing young people with the skills they need to support each other, and access the most appropriate professional support.

Using a tried and tested resource to undertake this task is best. One excellent resource is Understanding and Preventing Self-harm in schools: Effective Strategies for Identifying Risk and Providing Support. Buckingham: Hinton House Publishers; Tina Rae & Jody Walshe (2017).

This blog is an excerpt from Dr. Tina Rae’s article, “Introducing the Topic of Self-Harm in Schools: Developing an Educational and Preventative Support Intervention”, Education and Health. 34(2). For information on this subject by Dr Tina Rae and similar resources, click here.
For Nurture Group's website, click here.