Safeguarding Blog Curriculum Blog

‘Self-harm bullying’

Schools and parents hear lots about self-harm and about bullying, but did you know there was such a thing as ‘self-harm bullying’, where children and young people are encouraged to harm themselves or worse? It sounds awful, but it’s important for schools and parents to know what’s going on.

(NB – read on for news of a new teacher CPD training resource)

Self harm quote

When we carried out our online-safety survey of 40,000 pupils around the UK earlier this year (read about it in Hopes & Streams), we asked pupils “Have you ever seen anything that encourages people to hurt themselves?”, which led to the striking statistic that yes, almost 1 in 6 pupils (primary and secondary alike), had seen something that encourages self-harm.

Against the background of headlines about ‘self-harm epidemics‘, with GPs and schools reporting major increases in cutting and other forms of self-harm, we expected to hear about online material from groups that encourage cutting or also eating disorders (known as pro-ana or pro-mia). Unfortunately, we did indeed. However, we also found out something else.

DigiSafe Pupilsurvey result discussing boy aged 11 self-harming

Although we had asked separately about bullying, and found that 1 in 4 pupils had been bullied online and 1 in 13 admitted to having been the bully, we were surprised to discover from pupils’ free-text answers that the two topics were linked more closely than ever before. Again and again, we would read comments like the one at the top of this page.

Not only is it common for bullying to include calls to “go kill yourself”, but this is now often followed up by instructions, images, and even videos on how to do so. Given the link between bullying and harm or suicide, this is particularly disturbing.

We need the key technology players to be doing more to remove self-harm material from their platforms, through human moderation and use of technology, and we are delighted to see that the government is driving this on as it works on legislation following from the Internet Safety Strategy.

But it is also important that parents and teachers understand what is going on and are ready to respond. One step that we have taken to try and help with this is by creating a CPD presentation for staff specifically on Self-Harm Bullying, which can be delivered by a designated safeguarding or mental health lead within the context of broader staff education about self-harm. It’s available to all schools at (please read the notes for each slide carefully – this material should not be delivered lightly; NB – there is also a similar resource on live streaming at the same link).

There are links to further reading in that presentation and in the relevant section of our Hopes & Streams report into our findings from the pupil survey. Why not have a look at the LGfL Healthy Minds resource, too for self-harm advice for parents, staff and pupils.

And as ever, let us know what else we can be doing to support in this area.


Subscribe to our blog

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts.