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Guidance for sports clubs on self injury harm
23 March 2018

Guidance for sports clubs on self injury harm

Coacha has many priority ‘olive-branches’ that are all equally as important as each other. Between data protection (GDPR), safeguarding and data security, we’re being kept pretty busy! One of these many olive branches that we’re committed to raising awareness for, is mental health. We know that 1 in 4 people suffer with their mental health and 1 in 8 people are actually receiving treatment.

We are on a constant mission to raise awareness for mental health and the fact that a mental health disorder can be just a debilitating as a physical one. March 1st brought Self Injury Awareness Day (SIAD), which is an international event to raise awareness of self-harming.

On speaking to many of our users, it became apparent to us that many coaches wouldn’t know what signs to look for/what to do if they found out a member was inflicting self-injury. We thought we’d bring you an article, based on national guidelines, to make you aware of what to look for, and what to do if you suspect an athlete is self-harming.

Why do people self-harm?

Some people may respond to pressured situations by self-harming. Such situations could be:

-    Bullying
-    Illness
-    Stress
-    Low self-esteem
-    Mental health problems
-    Financial worries
-    High pressure at school/work

They may see self-injury as a coping mechanism for the situation that they’re going through. Although many people keep self-harm private, others may want to bring attention to themselves. It’s important to allow these individuals to understand that it’s okay to want to be noticed and that you are there to support them.

Who is likely to self-harm?

Every person is unique and therefore anyone can cause themselves self-injury. It’s important to bare this in mind when looking for signs of self-harm.


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Types of self-harm

There are multiple different ways which a person can cause themselves injury, which is why it can be difficult noticing them. They can be mental and physical.

-    Scratching
-    Overdosing
-    Burning
-    Bruising
-    Hair-pulling
-    Poisoning
-    Sudden weight loss/gain

People who self-harm are usually careful to cover themselves up with clothing or shrug physical injuries off as accidents.

Some emotional signs to look out for are:

-    Depression
-    Tearfulness
-    Isolation
-    Change in eating habits

Although, as the NSPCC state, the above do not necessarily point to self-harm.

What can I do if I find out an athlete has been self-harming?

The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) have a briefing for self-harming in sport which can be found here, but the basic points are as follows:
-    Inform the club welfare officer or lead safeguarding person and ask for advice and support for the individual and the person receiving the disclosure.
-    Encourage the individual to discuss the self-harming with their parents/guardian/someone they trust (unless this puts them at further risk).
-    Your sports club needs to boast a non-judgemental and respectful attitude, creating a proactive and safe environment in order to allow members to be open and discuss what’s on their mind before they turn to self-harm. This is a preventative approach.

Is there anything else I can do?

The NSPCC suggests some other ways in which you can support a young person who is self-harming.
1.    Talk it over –

As a sports coach, you’ll have tremendous communication skills. Use your listening skills to provide someone for them to speak to so they don’t feel alone. Try to understand. If they don’t want to speak to you, see if there’s another adult they would be comfortable with.

2.    Identify the cause –

Self-harming is almost always triggered by something, perhaps emotional pain. Speak with them about what goes through their mind and see if you can identify the trigger.

3.    Build their confidence –

Support them and give them words of encouragement.

4.    Show that you trust them –

This one is potentially targeted more towards parents. This will be difficult due to the circumstances, but they need to know that they are allowed their space and privacy. It’s important to build a relationship where they can tell you they have self-harmed. If the wounds require medical attention, you must ensure you go to hospital.

5.    Be careful who you tell –

Only tell those who need to know or who can help.

6.    Help them discover coping mechanisms –

Developing coping or distraction methods can be really helpful. The NSPCC recommends techniques such as painting, drawing or scribbling in red ink, holding an ice cube until it melts, listening to music and taking a bath or shower.

If you have any further questions about this topic, or would like to get in touch for another reason, please feel free and we’ll be more than happy to try and help.