Design of an online training programme and support tool for secondary schools to improve response to young people who self-harm (SORTS –SuppOrtive Response To Self-harm)
What is SORTS?
In the UK self-harm among young people is more common than in any European country. Nearly 20% of young people report that they self-harm and the risk increases sharply during the teenage years. Research shows that young people who self-harm are more likely to have mental health difficulties in later life and are at a higher risk of suicide. Reports suggest the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted young people’s mental health and a recent survey shows that 10% of 8-13 year olds reported having self-harmed at least once during the lockdown period. Despite this, only a fifth of young people who self-harm receive help from health services.
School staff are often the first professionals to notice that a young person is self-harming and are in an ideal position to provide those students with support. However, teachers report that they lack knowledge and training about self-harm, and do not feel confident in how to react. This can result in school staff responding in a negative or dismissive way, which can increase the young people’s distress and makes it less likely that the young person will seek professional help. Furthermore, the majority of schools do not have a self-harm policy in place and this means staff do not have guidance in how to respond to students who self-harm. There is a clear need to provide schools with the tools and training to help them to improve in their response.
What does the study aim to do?
The aim of this study is to design an online training programme and support tool to improve the staff response to students who self-harm. We call the programme SORTS – SuppOrtive Response To Self-harm. We will work in partnership with the Charlie Waller Trust to develop the training content. This online programme and support tool will be designed by working closely with secondary school students, school staff and mental health practitioners. It will provide a flexible and cost-effective method of increasing staff knowledge, skills and confidence in how to respond to students who self-harm. An integrated support tool will help schools to develop a self-harm policy tailored specifically for their school and will help connect young people to the right support. Crucially, we plan to include the views of young people so that we can understand how to increase the likelihood of help seeking, so that we better equip teachers in how they respond to finding out a young person has self-harmed. Once the design is finalised, we will seek further funding to test the training programme and support tool in schools. In developing this proposal, we sought the views of members of members of the public who said they thought the project was “useful” and “important”. They also gave recommendations regarding the procedure for carrying out online research with young people.