Working with young people involved in self-injuring behaviour can be professionally and personally challenging for staff.

Workers may also feel they have failed professionally in the event of a young person self-injuring whilst in their care. However, it is important to remember that it can often take time for a young person to find alternative coping mechanisms in place of self-injury.

It is important that workers are aware of how they are affected by the young person’s behaviour and what is required of their role. Workers may experience a range of feelings like: shock, sadness, anxiety, anger and powerlessness. Ethical challenges may also arise such as not saying “no” to a young person wanting to self-injure.

For these reasons it is important for workers to:

  • Support and debrief with co-workers on shift
  • Alert their Manager or person in charge of the situation
  • If directly involved with an incident of self-injury, undertake formal debriefing through the internal debriefing process. Workers not directly involved but who feel personally affected by an incident of self-injury should also be involved in a debriefing session
  • Think about and implement self-care strategies to manage stress arising from working with young people involved in self injuring behaviour 
  • Take action for your well being
  • Access the Employee Assistance Program if it is available.

Treat yourself as you would recommend to a young person; with care, compassion, do not isolate yourself and seek help if memories are intrusive, or stress and anxiety are increasing.