When a child has experienced trauma their sense of self is deeply impacted and if they haven’t had appropriate opportunities to process these experiences in a warm and empathetic relationship they may feel that they were to blame for what happened to them which increases their sense of shame and guilt, as they try to manage these big feelings by self-harming.

Children and young people self-harming is becoming increasingly common and has a chemical impact on the brain.  It’s key to remember not to berate these behaviours as ‘attention seeking behaviours’ and instead keep in mind that often self-harming is a complex response to trauma


What are the most helpful things we can do?

  • Don’t tell the young person that they are attention seeking as this will increase the shame and isolation

  • Be empathetic - notice if the child or young person is struggling and let them know you care for them

  • Don’t try to force them to change as this will increase their feelings of powerlessness