Understanding suicide and self-harm amongst children in care and care leavers (IRISS Insights, No. 21)

Self-harm and suicide are complex issues which arouse difficult and distressing emotions both within people who hurt themselves and those who love and care for them. When children hurt or try to kill themselves, adults responsible for them often feel confused, powerless and overwhelmed.

If these children are looked after away from their families then all the professionals involved with them must be able to provide them with the understanding and support they require. Examining the research and literature about self-harm and suicide is an essential element in developing understanding. Many important studies reported in this paper are quantitative or have been undertaken from a medical perspective but in reviewing them it is important to maintain a focus on the pain and emotional complexities for all involved.