More than a third of young people have self-harmed at some point in their lives

Françoise Facella
Communications & Events

More than a third (36%) of 16-25 year-olds in Britain have self-harmed at some point in their lives, according to a new survey commissioned by The Mix, Self-Harm UK and YoungMinds. The survey defined self-harm as “when someone intentionally damages or injures their body”, which could include a wide range of behaviours.

The three charities are releasing the results on Self-Harm Awareness Day (1st March), when they will be providing tools and resources for young people who are self-harming, and sharing advice on how to support friends and family members who are struggling to cope.

The YouGov poll of 1,009 16-25 year-olds also found that three-quarters of respondents (75%) either currently know or have known someone who has self-harmed. More than one in ten (13%) know someone who is currently self-harming.

When asked who a young person should talk to if they are currently self-harming, more than two-thirds of respondents (68%) said that they should talk to friends. But, worryingly, less than half of young people (49%) would be confident knowing what action to take if a friend did open up to them about their self-harm.

The survey also showed:

  • When asked who a young person should talk to if they were self-harming, the most common answers were: friends (68%), a counsellor (66%), a doctor (61%), a parent (53%) or a teacher (43%).
  • Only 9% of young people said that they were “very confident” knowing what to do if someone told them they were self-harming. 41% said they were fairly confident, 36% said they were not very confident, and 7% said they were not at all confident.

Chris Martin, CEO of The Mix, said: “It is shocking that self-harm remains so prevalent among young people as they struggle to manage their emotional wellbeing. What is clear from this survey is that peer support can potentially play a huge role in helping young people to recover. We need to do more to ensure that all young people know where they – or their friends – can turn when they self-harm and how peer groups can play their part in supporting those who are affected.”

Chris Curtis CEO of Youthscape said: “These figures are obviously shocking, but hopefully they act as a wake-up call to the seriousness and scale of self-harm. They demonstrate that almost every teenager who doesn’t self-harm could be in a position to support someone who does, so it’s vital that we raise awareness and reduce stigma around the issue, and equip young people to help their friends.”

Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said: “While this poll does not explain in what ways young people harmed themselves or whether they did it once or regularly, it is clear that this is a huge problem in our society that needs to be addressed. We know from calls to our Parents Helpline how overwhelming it can be if you find out that a child or young person is self-harming. But by offering the right support, friends and family can make a huge difference.”

On Self-Harm Awareness Day the charities will be releasing videos, blogs and advice packs to help people provide support to friends and family members. In future they will work together to commission further research to improve understanding of why and how young people self-harm.

The Mix is offering information and support for under 25s through social, online, telephone and counselling services. The charity is also releasing a new episode of “In The Mix”, the news-hacking show, on their YouTube channel to support young people affected by self-harm.

SelfharmUK are releasing a video aimed at friends of young people who self-harm to help and support them, and are also releasing a “friends are heroes” kit for teachers and professionals – a free downloadable resource which is available on the Youthscape website. There will be helpful content being posted across their website for young people who self-harm, their friends as well as family and professionals. The charity has also created a postcard for friends of self-harmers to give them some practical help and support.

YoungMinds runs a parents helpline, which provides support for parents concerned about self-harm, and has released a new Parents Lounge video giving advice for parents whose children are self-harming. The charity’s No Harm Done resource provides support for young people, parents and professionals affected by self-harm.

Five tips if someone tells you that they are self-harming:

Don’t panic. Learning that someone you care about is self-harming can be difficult to bear, and can make you feel upset, confused or even angry. Don’t panic if you’re not sure how to react – often simply being there is enough.

Offer to listen. Allow the other person to speak without interruption or judgement. For them self-harm may feel like the only way to express very strong and deep-rooted emotions. If someone feels able to open up to you this can be a huge breakthrough, so try not to jump to conclusions or make any fast decisions.

Help them to find support. Take the initiative and find out about mental health and other support services in the area. It may also help if you support your friend to make an appointment and offer to accompany them.

Be there for them for the long haul. Don’t expect a quick fix – some people self-harm for years as a way of dealing with difficult emotions or situations. Most people don’t want to be defined by their self-harm, so keep on being a friend to them as normal too.

Look after yourself. It’s hard to support someone if you’re feeling overwhelmed or out of your depth. Setting boundaries to what you can offer and getting support for yourself are important. Be honest about how you’re feeling and don’t take on more than you can cope with. If you’re feeling upset or struggling to cope yourself, talk to someone you trust – you’re doing a great thing by supporting your friend but if you’re worried or feeling down, make sure you speak to someone.

Media queries

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact
Françoise Facella [email protected] – 07766 660 755


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1009 adults aged 16-25. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th – 23rd February 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults aged 16-25.


Published on 01-Mar-2018