Nick found out that his daughter was self-harming when she was 14. He had no experience of self-harm and felt helpless. He has since learnt how common self-harm is. His daughter was treated by a psychologist and now rarely self-harms.

Nick first discovered that his daughter was self-harming when the police came to the door in response to a call from Childline. This was a terrible shock and Nick’s first reaction was that it couldn’t be happening. The family had no experience of self-harm. He couldn’t understand the reasons for it and had no idea what to do next. The police advised contacting the GP.

Nick’s daughter refused to talk about why she was self-harming, but Nick and his wife thought it might be related to her first boyfriend, who was a Goth. When this relationship ended his daughter had partly lost contact with her group of girlfriends at school so she became quite lonely. The school nurse was very supportive to both Nick’s daughter and his wife. Nick doesn’t think his daughter was suicidal, though he worries that she might accidentally harm herself seriously. She seems much better now and hardly harms herself at all, though there was another episode recently.

Nick and his wife were very worried about their daughter, and Nick supported his wife in trying to find out more about self-harm and how to cope with it. The school nurse gave them some information, and they were also helped by a clinician who came to the school to talk to the parents about self-harm. She explained some of the reasons for self-harm, and that it is much more common than Nick had realised, especially among girls.

Nick’s wife was reluctant to involve the GP or social services in case their daughter was labelled as a self-harmer. She and Nick arranged for a private psychologist to see their daughter over several months. These sessions were confidential. The psychologist provided their daughter with a tool kit’ of strategies to avoid harming herself. Nick says she was a lovely lady. She has now stopped treating his daughter, but can always be contacted if she is needed. Nick describes a diary system through which their daughter could write down how she was feeling in a notebook which she passed to her mother, who could respond in writing. This enabled Nick and his wife to learn how their daughter was feeling without direct confrontation.

Nick says that his two other children have kept a slight distance from their sister’s self-harming, but they have recognised that it is a serious situation and don’t tease her about it. They don’t talk about it with their friends.

Nick’s advice to other parents is that self-harm is very common. If your child won’t talk to you, find somebody that they can talk to about it, who can act as an intermediary. He says that as a man, he felt very helpless, but tells other parents not to despair, as there are resources out there. He thinks initiatives like Healthtalkonline will be helpful in enabling people to share experiences and learn from the experiences of others.

Nick’s daughter wouldn’t talk about her self-harm

Age at interview 53

Gender Male