At the NSHN Co-ordinating Group meeting on the 24th January 2007 the charity's stance on 'Harm Minimisation' was discussed. We have now formulated our current official stance on this issue, although we will continue to monitor developments.
Statement from the Co-ordinating group:
Harm Minimisation Policy.
The National Self- Harm Network is a charity that works with people who self-harm in a variety of ways. Harm minimisation has always been an important area of our work, and as this controversial issue moves forward in the public eye we have developed a policy to express our position on this matter.
Harm minimisation involves work at all levels to decrease the risk to the individual, and to promote their physical and emotional safety. For us, harm minimisation is the reduction of risk to people by promoting the physical and emotional safety of the individual. Helping the individual towards an understanding and knowledge of their own self-harm, so that they are more capable of helping themselves, can aid this process.
Recent harm minimisation work has suggested that this might mean advising the individual on how to harm themselves in a safer manner, so that they are putting themselves in less physical danger, or to even provide safe places where people can go to harm themselves. We believe that people who are in such a high level of distress should be given the right care and support to deal with their distress and difficulties. By providing individuals with a place or means to self-harm, but not the emotional support to tackle their difficulties, we would be failing them dismally.
If information to enable safe self harm is to be provided it should only be done so by mental and medical health professionals who have carefully assessed the individual and their specific set of circumstances, and believe this approach to be appropriate. We do not, however, believe that harm minimisation in this respect, should be offered as a blanket policy to all individuals. Self-harm is a valid coping strategy, and while this approach might benefit a small number of individuals, its misuse has the potential to actually cause damage to many others.
The National Self Harm Network wants to see policy development that will actively support the progression and recovery for all individuals who self-harm through the exploration of the origins of self harm in individual cases and the provision of safer alternate coping strategies.
For NSHN, our role in harm minimisation is to promote the emotional strength of the individual, to provide them with techniques that they can use to reduce their emotional distress and distract themselves from self-harm and to also enable the individual towards greater understanding of why they self harm so that they can find safer alternate coping strategies.
We also offer a forum for expression of the issues that drive self-harm and we believe that this provides and outlet for individuals to move towards harm reduction by seeking ongoing support for their emotional distress. It is by dealing with the underlying emotional difficulties that self-harm can be reduced effectively and be sustainable.
At the same meeting it was also agreed that the book 'Cutting the Risk' was not a publication that we any longer wished to directly supply to our members and the book will be removed from our publications list.
This thread is locked for clarity but members are free to discuss the charity's stance in the Survivor Room should they want to.