Self-harm and suicide are issues that West Dunbartonshire take seriously. We provide information on the warning signs, what to do and we direct you to people who can help.

West Dunbartonshire aims to support any young person and treat them with respect and dignity at all times. We will provide support and training to staff so they can feel confident dealing with this situation.

Self-harm is often a way of releasing feelings, including self-hatred, anger, sadness and depression. It is a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult emotions. However, it provides a temporary relief and does not deal with the underlying problems.

Suicide is deliberate self-harm which results in death. People who self-harm are clear that they do not want to die and it is not a suicide attempt.

Warning signs

You may see some of the risk factors and triggers listed as part of normal teenage behaviour. However, these can lead to self-harm or suicide if the individual young person cannot cope with them.

Examples of warning signs and triggers include:

  • childhood trauma, abuse or neglect
  • divorce / separation / loss / bereavement
  • bullying
  • worries about sexuality
  • feelings of isolation or extreme anxiety, depression or unhappiness
  • dislike of personal appearance or self image
  • academic pressures
  • history of mental health issues
  • drug or alcohol abuse

What to do

There are many things you can do to help a young person thinking of self-harm or suicide.  Please see the following list as a guide only:

  • talk openly about self-harm or suicide
  • recognise signs of distress and find a way of talking to the young person
  • listen to their worries and take them seriously
  • try to remain calm, reassuring and do not judge
  • help the young person to understand that talking so someone about their worries and feelings is the best way to reach a solution
  • seek advice and assistance from support agencies.

More information

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) provide a service from the Acorn Centre at Vale of Leven Hospital. You can contact them on 01389 817324.

Nationally help is available from:

  • Childline 0800 1111
  • Young Minds which offers a parents telephone advice service on 0808 802 5544 which is a source of excellent leaflets.