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For the Public

What we are doing and why?

Repeated self-harm is common and yet there is no treatment which works well and which is readily available for people through the NHS.

One of the issues with current therapy is that self-harm tends to be treated just as a symptom of underlying distress. But we know, from what people with personal experience say, that self-harm can also have some purpose – for example producing feelings of personal strength or being in control, and sometimes producing positive emotional feelings. The reasons for self-harm are not the same for everybody, so an important part of any new therapy is time spent understanding the meaning of self-harm for the individual.

Working with people with personal experience of self-harm and with therapists, we want to develop a new approach to assessment and therapy, which looks at all the potential reasons an individual may self-harm. The assessment would support the individual in thinking about the reasons they self-harm. If we understand why somebody self-harms, then we can understand them better as a person and this will help to identify the individual’s values and goals. The therapy would then guide the individual in choosing new, less harmful, ways of reaching these goals.

Once we have developed a new therapy, we want to test it in a clinical trial to see if it is better for people than any other help they are currently getting. The main question we are asking in the trial is whether the new therapy improves quality of life. Of course we also want to know if therapy helps with depression and helps somebody self-harm less. If this is the case, then there may also be cost-savings to the NHS, as well as to patients themselves.

Can I get involved?

It is not possible to self-refer to this trial, recruitment to the trial is through the participating hospital trusts only. If you would like to keep up with how we are doing, you can follow us on twitter - @freshstart_uk

If you have been given information on participating in the trial by your healthcare professional, and would like more information, please feel free to contact us directly by email -

Useful Links

Here are some links to commonly used organisations who support people experiencing self-harm: