Boys who self-harm could be harder to reach, says Cardiff-based organisation

Self-harm among young people is on the rise, but could boys be more reluctant to talk about it? We spoke to two people about their work to raise awareness of self-harm.

Si Martin and Hannah Morgan (pictured above) run Heads Above The Waves, a not-for-profit organisation based in Cardiff that raises awareness of depression and self-harm in young people.

“Self-harm is an issue that is very prevalent among young people,” says Si, 26, who co-founded Heads Above The Waves with Hannah.

A recent report by BBC News has shown that almost 1,200 children in Wales were admitted to hospital due to self-harm last year.  

The figures, obtained by the NSPCC through a Freedom of Information request, show a 41% rise in admissions due to self-harm over three years. These alarming numbers have led to calls for schools to teach more about self-harm and wellbeing in PSHE lessons, which is precisely what Si and Hannah do.

“Self-harm is a coping mechanism. We believe that it serves a purpose but that can be replaced with some more positive and particularly creative things,” says Si.

Si and Hannah run workshops in schools that, according to their website, “introduce the concept of positive alternatives to self-harm, encourage honest and open conversation, and plant the seeds for self-help”.

The sessions encourage students to use such alternatives to self-harm as music, writing and meditation.

“We’ll do a session once a week or fortnight, and in each session we’ll do a slightly different activity and have a conversation,” says Si.

However, Hannah says boys can find it much harder to open up in the sessions.

“I would say there are issues there but maybe boys feel they can’t or won’t address them,” says Hannah. “There’s a deep sense of discomfort talking about it.”

Hannah also says it’s possible that some teachers may not be so on the lookout for boys who are self-harming.

“In some schools, the students are selected by the teachers as pupils who will benefit from what we’re doing,” she says.

“As much are there may be the same amount of guys actually self-harming, it’s the girls that may be brought to the attention of the school, and are more willing to talk about it and are thus at the forefront of their mind to be selected for the workshops,” she adds.

Getting reliable statistics about self-harm is hard because many young people don’t tell anyone about it. Figures have suggested that girls are more likely to self-harm, but a greater reluctance to speak out among boys may mean greater underreporting.

Si says one of their main campaign focuses for next year will about getting boys to talk more openly about their emotional wellbeing.

“By doing it, I think it fosters a community. I think that one of the most important things is getting rid of that old macho, ‘men don’t cry’ sort of thing.”


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