A first Self-Harm Strategy for Scotland and the world

From: Scottish Government
Published: Wed Nov 29 2023

Plan includes delivery of national self-harm support services.

A new strategy focused on supporting people who self-harm is being launched, backed by new investment from the Scottish Government of £1.5 million.

The strategy - developed jointly with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and informed by people with lived experience - is believed to be the first of its kind in the world. It includes a three-year action plan which will prioritise tackling stigma and discrimination and improving support for people who have self-harmed - particularly those known to be at higher risk. The plan focuses on three areas:

  • deepening knowledge and compassionate understanding of self-harm
  • building support and services across Scotland
  • improving and sharing data and evidence

As part of the strategy, the Scottish Government funding supports a national webchat service offering people help out-of-hours. The webchat service is part of Self Harm Network Scotland, run by Penumbra, which also provides up-to-date, reliable and accessible advice for anyone affected by self-harm. It also offers free training sessions - either in-person or online - which have been completed by 1000 people since the start of the year.

Mental Wellbeing Minister Maree Todd yesterday said:

“We believe that any person who has self-harmed or is thinking about self-harming should receive compassionate support with a focus on recovery, without fear of stigma or discrimination.

“The way in which people seek support and discuss self-harm is changing with many going online for help, so the webchat service being offered by Penumbra is very welcome. This work is also helping to build our understanding about self-harm and the most helpful interventions so that we can continue to improve the services on offer.”

COSLA Health and Social Care spokesperson Councillor Paul Kelly yesterday said:

“Self-harm can be a difficult issue, both for those experiencing it and those who support them.

“We welcome this strategy which seeks to build knowledge and confidence in responding to self-harm across a range of settings, ensuring more people receive the effective and compassionate response they need. We look forward to continuing to work collectively across, and beyond government to support its progress.”

A mother of one from the Highlands, who has made use of the support service but does not wish to be identified, praised the help she has received. ‘Michelle' yesterday said:

“I received support from Self-Harm Network Scotland after suffering with anxiety and depression following the birth of my daughter. I used self-harm at the time to cope with my feelings and emotions. The support I received was amazing. One of the best parts of the whole service was having someone with lived experience like my peer practitioner by my side. They helped me understand that I wasn't alone in what I was experiencing.

“When I found out about the live chat launching, this filled me with confidence. I knew that I had the tools to cope that my peer practitioner had equipped me with, but also, that the chat was there if I was ever struggling and needed to talk to someone quickly. I want more people to be aware that the live chat and self-referral process are there if you need help.”

Professor Amy Chandler was the supervising academic on a study commissioned as part of the strategy development to consider what could be learned from those with lived experience of self-harm. She yesterday said:

“Self-harm is often misunderstood, with those who self-harm all too often receiving inappropriate, dismissive, or even harmful responses.

“While many nations have suicide prevention strategies that include self-harm, this strategy is unique in addressing self-harm separately. This is important, because while self-harm and suicide can be related, this is not always the case.

“This strategy builds upon positive work in Scotland that has already begun, with commitment to working with, and being informed by, those who have lived and living experiences of self-harm.”


Scotland's Self Harm Strategy and Action Plan (2023-27) - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)


The webchat facility run by Penumbra has been operating since October and is available to anyone aged over 12. It is open seven evenings a week and is run by peer practitioners and volunteers who offer support to those at the point of self-harming. Outwith webchat hours people can leave a message and will receive a call within 24 hours.

Company: Scottish Government

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