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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Penumbra’s new Self-Harm Network Scotland service

This opinion piece is over 1 year old

Tina Koenig on the charity's vital work to tackle growing rates of self-harm

Penumbra Mental Health is providing new services to support people who live with self-harm.

We’re working with local partners to develop four test sites across Scotland, which will include an online portal and three locality-based delivery sites in Dundee, Highlands & Islands and Glasgow.

The Dundee service will support people aged 12-18 referred by CAMHS. The Glasgow service will support people referred by Adult Mental Health Care and the A&E liaison Psychiatry team. In the Highlands, our service will support people aged 16+ referred by Primary Care Mental Health teams, beginning in the Mid Ross area.

Self-harm rates are rising

This work is vital as recent data shows that self-harm rates are rising. The 2019 Scottish Health Survey - which provides information about the health of people living in Scotland - showed that the proportion of adults in Scotland who say they have ever self-harmed is 7% (2018-19), compared to 3% in 2008-2009. Children need support too – data from the Scottish Parliament shows that the number of children (under 18) diagnosed with self-harm related injuries at Scottish hospitals has increased year-on-year since 2015.

Self-harm strategy

That’s why the Scottish Government has committed to developing a dedicated self-harm strategy and action plan for Scotland. It’s hoped the strategy will support people who experience self-harm, increase understanding of self-harm and set out clear aims.

Penumbra, the Scottish Government team, third sector partners and others have committed to providing a test programme which will feed into the strategy development process.

The purpose of our new self-harm services is to support a wide range of people and gather additional feedback and impact data which will inform the Scottish Government’s new self-harm strategy.

The online portal

Penumbra’s Self-Harm Network Scotland team is also working with people who have lived experience to create an online self-harm portal, which we hope to launch by the end of this year. We have provided self-harm services since 2005 and are proud to build on our existing experience with this online tool.

The aim of Penumbra’s new online portal is to provide information and support for people who are living with self-harm. Immediate support will be available via web-chat and there will be recovery-focused tools, enabling people to support themselves and others. The portal will also provide useful information for the family and friends of people who experience self-harm, as well as professionals.

Fiona Gray, senior practitioner for Glasgow’s new self-harm service, tells us a bit about her background and what working for the new service means to her:

“I too have a long history of self-harm and was a victim many years ago of an antiquated mental health system. Eventually, a professional came along that believed in me 110%. I’m happy to say I've recovered from extreme adversity and am living my best life now, achieving all my hopes and dreams. My life began when I was 40 and I’ve packed as much as possible into the last 17 years.

"My negative experiences are now utilised in a positive way – I share my experiences with others, show empathy, offer hope, and support others to achieve their own goals for the future.

"I’m proud to have been part of the peer movement who fought for lived experience to be recognised as a skill and unique expertise. I was one of the first paid peer workers in Scotland and have helped to shape the lived experience voice that’s being embedded into mental health services.

"I’m really passionate about delivering confidential, compassionate, recovery-focused support for people who want to engage with our services to find alternative coping strategies to manage difficult emotions and triggers.

"I’m very proud to be part of this Scottish Government initiative to put together a Self-Harm Network pilot across Scotland. I want to support as many people as possible, helping them to find different ways to cope with difficult emotions and achieve their own goals, hopes and dreams.”

Tina Koenig is communications lead (self-harm) at Penumbra Mental Health.