Utilization 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.
Geulayov G., Borschmann R., Mansfield KL., Hawton K., Moran P., Fazel M.
Background: Little is known about the perceived acceptability and usefulness of supports that adolescents have accessed following self-harm, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aims: To examine the utilization and acceptability of formal, informal, and online support accessed by adolescents following self-harm before and during the pandemic. Method: Cross-sectional survey (OxWell) of 10,560 secondary school students aged 12-18 years in the south of England. Information on self-harm, support(s) accessed after self-harm, and satisfaction with support received were obtained via a structured, self-report questionnaire. No tests for significance were conducted. Results: 1,457 (12.5%) students reported having ever self-harmed and 789 (6.7%) reported self-harming during the first national lockdown. Informal sources of support were accessed by the greatest proportion of respondents (friends: 35.9%; parents: 25.0%). Formal sources of support were accessed by considerably fewer respondents (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services: 12.1%; psychologist/ psychiatrist: 10.2%; general practitioner: 7.4%). Online support was accessed by 8.6% of respondents, and 38.3% reported accessing no support at all. Informal sources of support were rated as most helpful, followed by formal sources, and online support. Of the respondents who sought no support, 11.3% reported this as being helpful. Conclusions: More than a third of secondary school students in this sample did not seek any help following self-harm. The majority of those not seeking help did not find this to be a helpful way of coping. Further work needs to determine effective ways of overcoming barriers to help-seeking among adolescents who self-harm and improving perceived helpfulness of the supports accessed.