On World Suicide Prevention Day, the Welsh Government has published new Suicide and Self-harm guidance to support teachers and professionals who regularly come into contact with young people.
The guidance focusses on early intervention and the safe management of self-harm and suicidal thoughts when they arise.
The guidance will provide a quick and accessible source to the principles of best practice and signposts to other sources of support and advice.
Speaking at a visit to Samaritans in Cardiff, the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams said:
“Any suicide is one too many, a tragedy that touches family, friends and the whole community. It is imperative we continue to encourage open discussions with children and young people about their mental health.
“This new guidance will support staff who have direct contact with young people to provide effective support and have those, often difficult, conversations which could ultimately end up saving a life.”
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething said:
“The long-term effects of suicide and self-harm are absolutely devastating. This guidance is an important resource and will support our wider work around embedding a whole school approach to emotional and mental wellbeing.”
The National Advisory Group (NAG) on suicide and self-harm has been working with experts from academia to develop guidance for schools on how to talk about suicide and self-harm with their pupils. Professor Ann John of Swansea University has worked with colleagues on the NAG, young people, Mind-Ed and elsewhere within education and health to produce this guidance.
Prof Ann John, said:
“Self-harm in school-aged children and young people is a very real issue that we all need to take seriously. It is often a way to deal with difficult distressing emotions. When a young person reveals they are self-harming it’s a huge opportunity to help- the worst thing you can do, is do nothing.
Teachers and other school staff are often at the front line of having these conversations with young people but many worry they will say the wrong thing. Teachers in Wales said they wanted practical advice on how to help. This guidance does that and it’s great that Welsh Government is raising knowledge and awareness in this way. It covers a general understanding of self-harm, signs to look out for, tips on how to have those conversations and what to do if they become aware that a pupil is self-harming.’
Sarah Stone, Director of Samaritans Cymru, who has welcomed the guidance said, “We hope it provides teaching staff with the confidence to reach out to children and young people as a crucial form of prevention and early intervention. We believe this guidance sits within the wider potential and ambition of the new curriculum and must be seen as part of that whole school approach to maximise its effectiveness. Samaritans exists to reduce suicide and as such, we welcome any measure which upskills staff to recognise and intervene with both self harm and suicidal thoughts; two major public health issues in Wales”