Self-harm in the workplace

Self-Injury Awareness Day: 1st March

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Health Assured team

23 February 2021

A global study covering 40 countries has discovered that roughly 17% of people will self-harm during their lifetime.

On the 1st of March, the world acknowledges Self-Injury Awareness Day - the grassroots event that aims to educate people on self-injury and reach out to those who require support.

Knowing how to support a colleague who has experienced self-harm can be a difficult and emotional experience. You may feel as though you don’t want to bring the issue to light, for fear of causing damage or pain.

However, as is the case with many mental health issues, if left unchecked, things can often get much worse at a rapid rate.

In acknowledgement of Self-Injury Awareness Day, this guide will cover what signs to look out for in those in your life, as well as our tips on approaching someone and compassionately addressing their self-harm.

What is self-harm?

Self-harm or self-injury is considered as any deliberate behaviour that inflicts physical injury to a person’s body. Often used as a coping mechanism, self-harm can provide instant—but temporary—relief for people who are struggling with emotional issues and trauma.

Recognising the signs

Self-injury behaviour is usually very private and is often carried out in secret. As a result, it can be difficult to spot the signs of someone struggling to cope. However, that are a few telling signs that you can look out for, these include new cuts, scratches or burns that don’t appear accidental, a reluctance to wear short sleeve clothing/uniform and frequent ‘accidents’ that cause physical harm.

How can I support someone who is self-harming?

Self-injury is significantly misunderstood in society and due to the stigma associated, many people feel scared—or even ashamed—of speaking up about their struggles.

If a colleague opens up to you regarding their self-injuries, it’s important that you focus your attention on their emotional wellbeing and how you can support, instead of fixating on their self-injuries. Here, we have listed a few tips on how you can support a friend or a colleague who is self-harming:

Education: It’s important that people use Self-Injury Awareness Day as an opportunity to educate themselves and develop their understanding of self-harm. Research the facts surrounding the issue and debunk the common misconceptions that stunt our understanding.

Provide regular check-ins: As self-injury is often used as a coping mechanism for emotional issues, the person is likely experiencing problems with their mental wellbeing. Book in regular and informal check-ins with the individual and offer them an opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns.

Listen: Most importantly, let the person know that you’re available to listen to their concerns. Look for any adjustments you can make to help ease their struggles, e.g. reduced workloads, flexible uniform/workwear guidelines, offering remote working etc.

Signpost to support: According to research, only 50% of people who self-harm seek professional support. Make the person aware of the support services available to them. Health Assured’s qualified counsellors are available 24/7, 365 and can offer a compassionate, non-judgmental ear, as well as practical guidance.

If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on:

UK: 0844 892 2493

ROI: 01 886 0324

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