Information for the public
Which treatments can help with my self-harm in the long term?
If you have a mental health problem such as depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia or a drug or alcohol problem, community mental health services should provide all the treatment and support you need, which may consist of a psychological treatment or medication. (NICE has produced guidance about treatment for all of these conditions.) Treating the mental health problem may help to reduce your self-harming behaviour.
Your healthcare professional may also offer you a treatment specifically to help with your self-harm. Psychological treatment has the best evidence for helping people who have self-harmed in the longer term. You may be offered 3 to 12 sessions of a psychological treatment where the therapist will work with you to identify the problems causing distress or leading to self-harm.
You should not be offered medication as a specific treatment to reduce self-harm.
If stopping self-harm is unrealistic in the short term, healthcare professionals may discuss with you other ways of coping with problems as an alternative to self-harm, or methods of reducing harm.
Consent issues for people over 16
Healthcare professionals should always make sure that you are mentally capable of making a decision about your treatment. The fact that you have harmed yourself does not necessarily mean that you are not mentally capable. Your capacity to make informed decisions may change over time. For example, if you are confused from drugs or alcohol that you have taken, you might not be able to make decisions about treatment immediately. If this is the case healthcare professionals may wait until the effects of the drugs or alcohol have worn off but this depends on how urgently you need treatment.
Each new treatment should be explained to you and your capacity reassessed.
For consent issues for children and young people see 'Information for children and young people who self-harm'.
People with learning disabilities
If you have a mild learning disability or other problem that may affect your understanding, you should be offered the same treatments as other people who self-harm. The treatment may be adapted to suit your needs.
People with a moderate or severe learning disability who self-harm should be referred for immediate assessment and treatment conducted by a specialist in learning disabilities services.
Questions about treatment
Why have you offered me this type of treatment?
What are the pros and cons of having this treatment?
What will the treatment involve?
How will the treatment help me? What effect will it have on my symptoms and everyday life? What sort of improvements might I expect?
How long will it take to have an effect?
Are there any risks associated with this treatment?
What are my options for treatments other than the recommended treatment?
What will happen if I choose not to have the recommended treatment?
Is there a leaflet about the treatment that I can have?