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Enquire Blog

Young boy sitting alone on a bench during break at school.

Self-harm strategy and action plan

Enquire have fed back on the Scottish Government’s Draft Self-Harm Strategy and Action Plan, sharing what we hear on our helpline relating to mental health, anxiety and self-harm.  

Our response highlights the interaction that can exist between a child’s mental health and their experience of support at school, and some of the factors that influence this. 

We reflect on what parents and carers have told us regarding issues at school and how sometimes a lack of understanding of needs, concerns regarding levels of support, difficulties with the learning environment and incidents of bullying can all lead to cases where mental health issues and self-harming behaviours have developed or been exacerbated.  

We draw attention to the impact that delays or difficulties in accessing mental health services to support children and young people who self-harm has on their ability to access and benefit fully from their education. We also highlight the impact that this can have on schools who are providing intensive mental health support without input from specialist services.  

Although legally there is no requirement for diagnosis in order to access support, in practice this is still often a barrier to children and young people with mental health concerns receiving support in school. Whilst this is acknowledged, we suggest the plan would benefit from more immediate action to begin to tackle the impact and day-to-day difficulties faced by children and young people, families and schools who are seeking support but not yet receiving it.   

We also emphasise the importance of safety in school, working together and the need to more explicitly link the proposed plan and strategy to the ASL Action Plan, GIRFEC and the UNCRC.  

Hannah Gray, Senior Information and Advice Officer said:  

“Over the last year more than a quarter of the calls to our helpline were related to concerns for a child or young person with anxiety or mental health issues and their support in school.   

“Based on what we regularly hear from families, we know there are real challenges in terms of accessing support for learning, especially when the child or young person concerned is awaiting assessment or falls short of criteria for formal intervention and support from health services – despite this not being a requirement in order to access support with their learning.    

“The plan does seek to address many of the longer-term issues around accessing support, both within and outwith education, for those who are at risk of self-harm. Whilst long-term actions and plans are welcome, we suggest there needs to be consideration of more immediate actions that can alleviate the pressure on schools, families and children who are seeking support now.  

“We also encourage the plan to consider the importance of partnership working and effective communication between services, and rooting the strategy and action plan firmly in a rights-based approach.” 

Read our full response in full here Trigger Warning: Some may find the experiences shared in our submission upsetting to read.  

Looking for more information on this topic?

Enquire has lots of information and advice that can help you understand the rights of children and young people whose mental health is impacting their learning, and what support is available.  

Visit our pages for parents and carers on Identifying and assessing your child’s needs and Missing school due to anxiety and other mental health needs. 

View our section for professionals on Planning and delivering additional support for learning 

Visit All about ASL: Anxiety on Reach, our website for children and young people.  

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