The Public Health Agency (PHA) is using Self-Harm Awareness Day (March 1) to encourage local people who are affected by self-harm to seek help.
Dr Denise O’Hagan, Public Health Consultant with the PHA, said: “People self-harm for various reasons and are usually experiencing severe emotional distress. Self-harm is when a person harms themselves through injury or poisoning. For some people, self-harm is a way of coping with and communicating their distress, but for others it can be associated with a wish to end their lives and therefore it should always be taken seriously.
“Self-Harm Awareness Day is an opportunity to highlight that there is help available and to encourage both people who self-harm and their families or carers to seek help.”
If you need help to prevent or reduce self-harming, speak to your GP who will assess your needs and make a referral to the most appropriate service for you, which may include referral to the Self-Harm Intervention Programme (SHIP).
If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide but haven’t harmed yourself, you should contact a GP urgently or call the confidential Lifeline helpline on 0808 808 8000. If you are at immediate risk of serious self-harm or suicide or have done something to yourself that may cause you serious harm, you should attend an Emergency Department or call 999.
Many people who self-harm do so in private and keep the issue hidden from friends and family.
“If family or friends become aware that someone is harming themselves, they should encourage the person to seek help,” said Dr O’Hagan.
A service is available for people who self-harm and their carers called SHIP. This service is open to young people aged over 11 years old and adults, and offers counselling to help improve coping skills and reduce or prevent further self-harming behaviour.
SHIP also offers education and support to families and carers of people who self -harm. The service is funded by the PHA and delivered by community and voluntary sector organisations across Northern Ireland.
Dr O’ Hagan added: “Families and carers can often find it very difficult to cope when someone is self-harming.
“SHIP can provide a short period of education and support to carers to help them better understand and cope with this issue and ensure they know how to obtain help in a crisis situation. Carers can attend the service even if the person who self-harms does not want to attend. Families or carers who would like to arrange an appointment should contact SHIP in the area in which they live.”
Telephone lines are open Monday to Friday 9am- 4pm. The phone lines are for families/carers only. People who self-harm must be referred by a health professional.
The SHIP service in the Lisburn area can be contacted by calling 028 9039 1630.
The PHA has also developed some booklets for people who self-harm and their families.
‘Improving the lives of people who self-harm’ is available at www.pha.site/imprlives and ‘Caring for someone who has self-harmed or had suicidal thoughts’ at www.pha.site/caresh