Home > Self-harm, suicide and risk: helping people who self-harm. Final report of a working group.

Royal College of Psychiatrists. (2010) Self-harm, suicide and risk: helping people who self-harm. Final report of a working group. London: Royal College of Psychiatrists.

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The focus of this report is to enquire into and report on why people harm and kill themselves and to consider the role (including the limits of the role) that psychiatrists and other mental healthcare professionals play in their care and treatment. The experiences and views of people who harm themselves as well as those of their carers, health professionals and third-sector workers are central to this enquiry. As there is much policy and guidance on self-harm and suicide prevention, the report does not attempt to retrace this same ground but rather examines the evidence of practice on the ground, including the implementation of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines on self-harm (National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, 2004).

This report is the second in the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ programme of work on the broad issue of risk. The College report Rethinking Risk to Others was published in July 2008 (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2008a) and a new Working Group was set up under the chairmanship of John, Lord Alderdice, to examine risk, self-harm and suicide. This clinical issue is an integral part of the role of the psychiatrist in ensuring the good care and treatment of patients.

Our central theme is that the needs, care, well-being and individual human dilemma of the person who harms themselves should be at the heart of what we as clinicians do. Public health policy has a vital role to play and psychiatrists must be involved and not leave these crucial political and managerial decisions to those who are not professionally equipped to appreciate the complexities of self-harm and suicide. But we must never forget that we are not just dealing with social phenomena but with people who are often at, and beyond the limit of what they can emotionally endure.

Their aggressive acts towards themselves can be difficult to understand and frustrating to address, but this is precisely why psychiatrists need to be involved to bring clarity to the differing causes for the self-destructive ways in which people act and to assist in managing the problems for the people concerned, including family, friends and professional carers, who sometimes find themselves at the end of their tether in the face of such puzzling and destructive behaviour.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Report
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
137 p.
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Corporate Creators
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Place of Publication
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)
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