Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A recent survey found that young people who self-harm primarily turn to friends (one in three) and parents (one in four) for support. Formal sources of support, such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHS), psychologists, psychiatrists, or GPs, and online or phone-based services, were accessed by considerably fewer young people.

Two friends sit on a sofa and console each other

More than 10,000 young people aged 12-18 years have taken part in the OxWell Student Survey, which asked young people about their own health and wellbeing, at the end of the first COVID-19 lockdown (June-July 2020). 

13 percent of young people surveyed had self-harmed at some point in their life before June 2020, with 7 percent self-harming during the first national lockdown. 

Worryingly, the study found that almost 40 percent of adolescents received no support after they had self-harmed, which they felt wasn't a helpful way of coping. For those who sought support after self-harm, many turned to their friends (36 percent) and parents (25 percent), while formal sources of support such as CAMHS and GPs were accessed by far fewer adolescents (7-12 percent). Additionally, online or phone-based services were accessed by less than 10 percent of adolescents who had self-harmed.  

Concerns about burdening others was a commonly chosen reason for not seeking support (one in two young people). Other commonly chosen reasons related to shame (25-48 percent) and trust (40-41 percent). Only one in ten young people surveyed reported not accessing support because they did not know where to find it.


Professor Mina Fazel, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, said:


‘The OxWell Student Survey has given us so much important information about what young people want following self-harm. We need to make sure our services reflect these preferences to help identify ways to give direct support to these young people, which doesn’t make them feel like they are burdening those they turn to, be that friends, parents, other family members, or ‘busy’ health care services.’


Dr Galit Geulayov, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, said:



‘It is important to remember that for every young person who self-harms there may be many friends and family members who provide care and support, who may themselves experience significant distress. We need to continue to work with young people to better understand their support needs, as well as the support needs of their informal care providers.’


Associate Professor Rohan Borschmann, Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne, and visiting academic - Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, said:

‘Online and phone-based supports – most of which are readily available, anonymous, and free to use – were accessed by a small proportion of adolescents. They were also rated as the least helpful source of support. Uncovering the reasons for this is one of the urgent questions we’re focusing on with our most recent OxWell data.’


Read the complete report, Utilisation and acceptability of formal and informal support for adolescents following self-harm before and during the first COVID-19 lockdown: results from a large-scale English schools survey.



Please follow the link below to read the news on the NIHR BRC website.

Similar stories

Alcohol affects the Human Biological Clock

The short-term effects of excessive drinking are well known, but to date it has been less certain whether alcohol also accelerates the aging process.

New Meta-Analysis Highlights No Antidepressant Effect of Statins Administered in Monotherapy

This new systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials assesses the effects of statins given alone, without concomitant antidepressant treatment, in people with depressive symptoms, but who do not have a formal diagnosis of a depressive disorder.

New Oxford Study Evaluates Pharmacological Treatment for Insomnia

Two drugs, eszopiclone and lemborexant – both not currently licenced for the treatment of insomnia in the UK – were shown to perform better than others, both in the acute and long-term treatment of insomnia in adults, according to a new Oxford study exploring the pharmacological management of insomnia.

Moderate Drinking Linked to Brain Iron and Cognitive Decline

Consumption of seven or more units of alcohol per week is associated with higher iron levels in the brain. Iron accumulation in the brain has been linked with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and is a potential mechanism for alcohol-related cognitive decline.

Effectiveness of School-Based Mindfulness Training

A standardised schools-based mindfulness training programme did not help young people’s mental health and well-being overall, but did improve school culture and reduce teachers’ burn out, a research team led by the University of Oxford has found.

Mental Health Act Reform

Professor Kam Bhui, Departments of Psychiatry and Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, comments on a recent POSTnote briefing (based on literature reviews and interviews) from the UK parliament. The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has summarised the evidence - Mental Health Act Reform - Race and Ethnic Inequalities - to inform debate and offer a series of resources to support legal scrutiny and apprise parliamentarians.