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Making self-harm everyone's business: a consideration of the new national guideline

02 April 2022
Volume 33 · Issue 4


This article discusses the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's consultation and draft guideline on self-harm management, placing the recommendations in the context of ongoing pressures on NHS services and the UK's growing mental health crisis

The consultation on the updated National Institute for Health and Care (NICE) guideline on the assessment, management and prevention of self-harm closed on 1 March 2022. Once finalised, it will mark the first update to NICE guidance on self-harm for over 10 years (NICE, 2011, 2022).

Self-harm is defined as any act of intentional self-injury or self-poisoning, regardless of the specific purpose behind the act (NICE, 2022). An individual may self-harm for a variety of reasons, but it is primarily used as a means of coping with difficult emotions, overwhelming situations or traumatic memories. Therefore, this behaviour is often linked to mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and depression (Mind, 2020).

The draft guideline, released in January 2022, emphasises that self-harm is ‘everyone's business’ (NICE, 2022). Indeed, with the difficulties many face in accessing specialist mental health services, combined with the stigmatised nature of self-harm that may cause individuals to be apprehensive about seeking medical help, it is crucial that all health and social care professionals know how to recognise and address this behaviour (NICE, 2022).

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