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Increase in self-harm likely around christmas, charity warns

People with mental health problems could be more likely to self-harm around christmas, as a way to cope with added pressures, a mental health charity warned.

In a survey of nearly 900 people with mental health problems, the mental health charity Mind found that in order to cope with the added pressure of christmas more than half (52%) have considered harming themselves, while nearly half (45%) have considered taking their own life.

Reasons people gave for struggling at Christmas included getting into debt (41%), feeling lonely (83%) and finding christmas stressful (81%).

Mind also found that one-in-four people will have problems sleeping at christmas, and nearly 60% have experienced panic attacks.

The latest NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines on the long-term management of self-harm (NICE CG133) states that: “If a person presents in primary care with a history of self-harm and a risk of repetition, consider referring them to community mental health services for assessment. If they are under 18 years, consider referring them to CAMHS for assessment."

Nurses should make referral a priority when:

  • levels of distress are rising, high or sustained

  • the risk of self-harm is increasing or unresponsive to attempts to help

  • the person requests further help from specialist services

  • levels of distress in parents or carers of children and young people are rising, high or sustained despite attempts to help.

Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind, said: “Coping with a mental health problem can be difficult at any time of year but at christmas there are special demands that can leave you feeling worse than usual.

“Some people aren't able to be with loved ones this christmas and worry about feeling lonely. Christmas can also make existing problems seem even bigger - especially if you are unhappy, and everyone else is having fun… We're urging people to look out for one another and show that you care,” he added.