Suicidal behaviours range from suicidal thoughts, planning suicide, attempting suicide to completing suicide. Suicide is usually in response to a complex series of factors that are both personal and related to wider social and community influences. There is therefore no single reason why someone may try to take their own life. Suicide is best understood by looking at each individual, their life and circumstances. It is however important to remember suicide and self-harm are largely preventable, if risk factors at the individual, group or population level are effectively addressed.
Self-harm is usually defined as intentional self-poisoning or self-injury. This covers a wide range of behaviours, including isolated and repeated events: self-cutting, poisoning, scratching, burning, banging, hitting, hair pulling and interfering with wound healing. It challenges the individual, families and professionals alike. Behaviours associated with substance misuse, risk taking or eating disorders are generally not considered self-harm because usually the harm is an unintentional side effect of the behaviour. However boundaries can be blurred, meanings differ in different contexts and there are often associations. Welsh Government
Self-harm results in 5,500 admissions per year in Wales across all ages and is one of the top five causes of medical admissions. Much of this is unscheduled. It is estimated that approximately 8% of 14 to 19 year olds will self-harm. Self-harm is the strongest risk factor for suicide, the second leading cause of death in the 15 to 19 year old population. However, only a very small fraction of those who self-harm go on to make suicide attempts or die by suicide. The risk factors for young people who self-harm are consistent with other safeguarding risks such as child abuse and neglect, substance misuse, intimate partner violence and sexual exploitation.
Front line health professionals play a key role in the management of those who self-harm. Often they are the first contact for the young person with support services and this has a significant impact on the outcome for the young person and future help seeking. Young people who have self-harmed need to be cared for with compassion and the same respect and dignity as any service user. Public Health Wales
Suicide and self-harm prevention strategy 2015 to 2020 identifies the priorities for organisations in Wales.