Cornwall students receive new support for self-harming issues

Black and white photo of three young people laughing. In the foreground is a mixed race girl in a hoodie smiling widely, to the side is a caucasian male in a white t-shirt, in the background is a mixed race guy smiling, backlit in front of a sunny window

Students at secondary schools in West Cornwall will receive specialist support for self-harming issues under a new service being launched in April. Young people will be able to access support from the Mind and Body programme being launched by YZUP, a service for 11-18 year olds provided by substance misuse and mental health charity Addaction.

The Mind and Body programme involves two YZUP staff offering one-to-one sessions and a programme of hour-long groups with those aged 14-17 who are already self-harming or vulnerable to risk-taking behaviour such as self-cutting, burning, picking, bruising, scratching, self-poisoning and self-strangulation.

The focus will be on exploring thoughts and actions in relation to self-harm, looking at why risks are taken and how to reduce them and help develop communication, self-expression and assertiveness skills. It aims to provide participants with strategies to reduce their risk taking behaviour and improve their emotional well being.

Using different rooms to the usual classrooms in order to establish a new environment, the staff will keep the nature of the sessions confidential from the participants’ peers to avoid any potential stigma. There will also be the option for young people to receive one-to-one support if they would like help but would prefer not to take part in group sessions.  The Mind and Body programme has been developed, in consultation with young people and professionals from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and draws on the experience Addaction has delivering the programme elsewhere in the UK. It responds to an increase in the number of young people nationally who are self-harming. 

  • About 25% of young people self-harm on one occasion, most commonly by cutting. 
  • 87% of young people who self-harm do not seek treatment from a hospital.
  • Over the last ten years the number of young people admitted to hospital because of self harm has increased 68%.

The project is a pilot for Cornwall and funded for one year by the Health Education England Fund. 

Addaction’s operations manager for the programme, Rick Bradley, said:

“The reasons why young people self-harm can be massively different. It could be home life, school life, struggling to manage feelings and thoughts in a positive way. But the thing that joins it together is finding other young people in the same position to talk to. The key success of this project elsewhere has been giving young people the chance to open up in a group and stop feeling so isolated.”

YZUP will work in collaboration with a range of other specialist agencies to ensure all the young people’s individual needs are met, including education, health and social care services, the Bloom Project and wider CAMHS, Headstart, Young People Cornwall, Xenzone and other voluntary sector stakeholders plus NHS Kernow CCG.

By improving young people’s mental health, the hope is to also reduce other risky behaviours such as substance misuse and offending. Reducing further self-harm will also reduce the costs to primary care and A&E admissions. Once the programme is established, YZUP will set-up monthly peer-led groups to involve young people in evaluating the course and improving delivery.

The Mind and Body programme is supported by Cornwall Council and NHS Kernow CCG. Cornwall Council’s Joint Commissioning Manager Kim Hager said:

“This is a really excellent and exciting example of a voluntary sector provider securing additional external investment for what looks to be an innovative partnership approach to meeting the real needs of young people in Cornwall.”

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt said:

“Schemes such as this represent another step in fulfilling our promise to establish genuine parity between mental and physical health. We want to end the taboo around mental health – funding local innovations such as Addaction’s vital training is the best way to make this a reality and help more young people than ever before.”

Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Director of Nursing and Deputy Director of Education and Quality at Health Education England added: “We are excited by this initiative as it will provide an ideal opportunity to introduce and enhance services to transform the lives of children and young people.

“This additional funding means that children, young people and their families can get the tailored support they need through the delivery of improved, more accessible mental health and wellbeing services to ensure they are not only well-supported, but thrive, which will transform the care and lives of many across the country. ”