Self-Injury Support Charity Report March 2024

Self Injury Support is a UK-wide, experience-led charity providing support and improving knowledge around self-harm. We have 38 years’ experience delivering support to people who self-harm, having been set up by a group of women who wanted more holistic mental health support and quickly grew into a national support service. Since 1986 the organisation has developed new channels for support including text, webchat and email, delivered experience-led training and set up a unique peer support service for people going to A&E for self-harm treatment.

In 2023, in response to beneficiary feedback we decided to develop group support for people affected by self-harm. The aim was to offer spaces where there was a shared experience around self-harm, but the activities would not necessarily focus on self-harm but be an opportunity to try out new activities and skills that might be helpful to wellbeing. The pilot phase focused on running creative arts groups around creative expression and devised theatre. In total 15 people were involved in the groups across two different locations in North and South Bristol and facilitators used creative approaches to support people to take part such as pre-recordings to be used in theatre work and choices of arts-based activities.

People who got involved in these groups were from varied backgrounds but many had used self-harm on a long-term basis, had significant experience of mental illness and trauma, and some had many admissions to hospital but no specific support to help them to understand their self-harm and the function it might have. Many of the participants no longer wanted to engage with mainstream mental health services and were looking for spaces that were safe and welcoming with no requirement to talk.

Sessions included a combination of therapeutic arts, crafts and writing activities, working with a historian to explore different attitudes to self-harm in different historical periods, devising and developing a theatre format and script for a performance.

Feedback from participants focused on both developing skills and trying new activities, as well as the value of a space where there was shared experience of self-harm.

Key highlights for participants were: 

  • An opportunity to try lots of different art and theatre activities 
  • Facilitators and peers having a shared lived experience of self-injury 
  • Having a breakout space from the main group 
  • Permission to opt in or out of various creative activities 
  • Learning about different historical perspectives on self-harm

Quotes from Participants:

I really liked the group and all the facilitators were very understanding and friendly

I think the things that stood out to me were just the fact the you were able to do what you want with the art and the space, you could talk when you want, leave when you want and do whatever with the art.

I always like painting but I really liked the clay because it is something I only usually get to do in hospital and not at home.

I liked the group and I liked that we got to try lots of different things

More information available at selfinjurysupport.org.uk


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