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National Conference debates the findings of Truth Hurts, the report of the National Inquiry into Self-harm among Young People

Over 100 senior managers and policy makers came together at the British Library to hear from a range of speakers on the implications of the findings of the National Inquiry, and to debate how to improve the experience of young people who self harm, their families and friends.

Speakers included a young person with personal experience of self-harm, who movingly described her ongoing struggle to find alternative ways of coping, and the critical difference that had been made in her life by finding a GP able to work with her to tackle the need to self-harm. A range of professionals also spoke from their perspective: the medical advisor for the RCN discussed the challenges of “safe” self harm, a human right lawyer laid out the complex legal framework within which treatment decisions need to be made, and the conference heard from counselling services in schools and universities about what interventions appear to be successful. The governor of Styal prison discussed the high rates of self harm among women prisoners and the need to support staff to deal with highly distressing situations, and the leader of an in-patient psychiatric unit described the unit’s move from an approach based on stopping self harm to one that sought to allow patients a sense of control and responsibility over the self-harming behaviour.

Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, urged all professionals to re-engage with their core skills of empathy and a non-judgemental approach to offering support to young people who self-harm. He outlined the Mental Health Foundation’s intention to develop training for front-line professionals.

Susan Elizabeth, Chief Executive of the Camelot Foundation, thanked all those who had contributed to the success of the National Inquiry, and outlined the Camelot Foundation’s plans to commission a Virtual Centre of Excellence on self harm, to act as a one-stop, trusted resource for all those seeking information and advice about self-harm. Further details about the Virtual Centre of excellence are available from the Camelot Foundation’s website.

The conference also saw the launch of a report aimed at young people The truth about self-harm, which can be downloaded from the link on the left.