This guideline covers the short-term management and prevention of self-harm in people aged 8 and over, regardless of whether accompanied by mental illness. It covers the first 48 hours following an act of self-harm, but does not address the longer-term psychiatric care of people who self-harm.

In November 2011, recommendations and on assessment of risk, recommendation on special issues for children and young people, and recommendation on psychological, psychosocial and pharmacological interventions were replaced with recommendations from the NICE guideline on self-harm in over 8s: long-term management.


This guideline includes recommendations on:

Who is it for?

  • Healthcare professionals
  • Counsellors, psychiatrists, prison health staff, social workers, therapists and pharmacists
  • Police and professionals who work in the criminal justice and education sectors
  • Directors of public health, NHS trust managers and managers in primary care trusts
  • People who self-harm and their families and carers

Is this guideline up to date?

We checked this guideline in January 2019 and have agreed it will be updated at the earliest opportunity.

Guideline development process

How we develop NICE guidelines

This guideline was previously called self-harm: the short-term physical and psychological management and secondary prevention of self-harm in primary and secondary care.

Your responsibility

The recommendations in this guideline represent the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, professionals and practitioners are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or the people using their service. It is not mandatory to apply the recommendations, and the guideline does not override the responsibility to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual, in consultation with them and their families and carers or guardian. 

All problems (adverse events) related to a medicine or medical device used for treatment or in a procedure should be reported to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency using the Yellow Card Scheme.

Local commissioners and providers of healthcare have a responsibility to enable the guideline to be applied when individual professionals and people using services wish to use it. They should do so in the context of local and national priorities for funding and developing services, and in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to reduce health inequalities. Nothing in this guideline should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with complying with those duties.

Commissioners and providers have a responsibility to promote an environmentally sustainable health and care system and should assess and reduce the environmental impact of implementing NICE recommendations wherever possible.