Penumbra’s new Self-Harm Network Scotland service

Tina Koenig on the charity’s vital work to tackle rising rates of self-harm

Penumbra Mental Health offers new services to support people living with self-harm.

We are working with local partners to develop four test sites across Scotland, which will include an online portal and three local delivery sites in Dundee, Highlands & Islands and Glasgow.

The Dundee service will support people aged 12-18 referred by CAMHS. The Glasgow service will support those referred by Adult Mental Health Care and the A&E Psychiatry Liaison Team. In the Highlands, our service will support people aged 16 and over referred by primary care mental health teams, starting in the Mid Ross area.

Self-harm rates are increasing

This work is vital as recent data shows that rates of self-harm are increasing. The 2019 Scottish Health Survey – which provides information on the health of people living in Scotland – showed that the proportion of adults in Scotland who say they have ever self-harmed is 7% (2018-19), up from 3% in 2008-2009. Children also need support – data from the scottish parliament shows that the number of children (under 18) diagnosed with self-harm injuries in Scottish hospitals has increased year on year since 2015.

Self-harm strategy

This is why the Scottish Government is committed to developing a self-harm strategy and action plan for Scotland. It is hoped that the strategy will support people who self-harm, improve understanding of self-harm and set clear goals.

Penumbra, the Scottish Government team, third sector partners and others have committed to delivering a testing program that will feed into the strategy development process.

The aim of our new self-harm services is to support a wide range of people and to gather additional feedback and impact data that will inform the Scottish Government’s new self-harm strategy.

The online portal

Penumbra’s Self-Harm Network Scotland team is also working with people who have lived experience to create an online self-harm portal, which we hope to launch by the end of this year. We have been providing self-harm services since 2005 and are proud to leverage our existing experience with this online tool.

The goal of Penumbra’s new online portal is to provide information and support for people living with self-harm. Immediate assistance will be available via online chat and there will be tools focused on recovery, allowing people to support themselves and others. The portal will also provide useful information to family and friends of people who self-harm, as well as professionals.

Fiona Gray, lead practitioner at Glasgow’s new self-harm servicetells us a bit about her background and what it means to her to work for the new department:

“I too have a long history of self-harm and I was a victim many years ago of an outdated mental health system. Eventually a professional came along who believed in me 110%. I am happy to say that i have recovered from extreme adversity and am now living my best life, achieving all my hopes and life started when i was 40 and i packed as much as i could in the over the past 17 years.

My negative experiences are now being used in a positive way – I share my experiences with others, show empathy, offer hope, and help others achieve their own goals for the future.

I am proud to have been part of the movement of peers who fought for the recognition of lived experience as a unique skill and expertise. I was one of the first paid peer workers in Scotland and helped shape the voice of lived experience that is integrated into mental health services.

I am truly passionate about providing confidential, compassionate, and recovery-oriented support to people who want to engage with our services to find alternative coping strategies to deal with difficult emotions and triggers.

I am very proud to be part of this initiative by the Scottish Government to set up a self-harm network pilot project across Scotland. I want to support as many people as possible, helping them find different ways to deal with difficult emotions and achieve their own goals, hopes and dreams.

Tina Koenig is Communications Manager (Self-Harm) at Penumbra Mental Health.

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