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  3. 10. General
  4. 10.8 Responding to self-harming behaviour
  5. Key steps
  6. 1. Identify that a child is at risk of self-harm

1. Identify that a child is at risk of self-harm

1.1 Consider the criteria for identifying self-harm risk to a child

A child will be identified at risk of self-harm when they meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • the child displays self-harming behaviour (for example, self-cutting, self-strangulation, jumping from a height intended to cause self-harm, ingesting a substance in excess of the prescribed or generally recognised therapeutic doses, or ingesting a recreational or illicit drug that was an act the child regarded as self-harm)
  • the child threatens or expresses an intention to self-harm
  • the child has peers that have recently engaged in self harming behaviour, which may have an influence on their actions
  • the child is involved in risky or dangerous behaviour or is involved in risk taking behaviour (such as reckless actions endangering life or chronic or prolonged substance misuse) that is assessed as placing him/her at risk of a physically damaging form of bodily harm.

Defining self-harm

Self-harming behaviour refers to the direct, deliberate act of harming one's body without the conscious intention to die. Self-harm may result in death and is a risk factor for suicide.

For further information to assist in identifying children at risk of self-harm, refer to Attachment 1: Self-harm and suicide risk - identifying factors and warning signs, and Responding to people at risk of suicide: how can you and your organisation help? (PDF)

1.2 Consider and integrate the child protection history

A child protection history check is the consideration of all records of previous contact by the department with the child, family or other members of the child's household as part of the decision-making process. Consider and integrate the child protection history when considering whether the child is at risk of self-harm, and give special consideration to:

  • previous alerts
  • information or behaviour that signifies an escalation or intensification in the pattern or severity of the child's self-harming behaviour
  • whether the child protection history confirms or highlights additional risk factors, including any previous child or family deaths, serious or repeated injuries, mental health issues or changes in behaviour or personality.

For further information refer to the practice paper A framework for practice with 'high risk' young people (12-17 years) (PDF, 1.1 MB) and the practice guide The assessment of harm and risk of harm (PDF, 886 KB).

1.3 Consult with the team leader to decide the required response

Consult with the team leader for guidance and direction when assessing and responding to self-harm in order to:

  • discuss the rationale for recording the self-harm alert, which is informed by the assessment about the nature and significance of the information prompting the self-harm alert
  • identify the immediate and, where applicable, ongoing actions, interventions and supports to be provided, that could reduce the risks to the child.

Where doubt exists about whether a child is at risk of self-harm

Where doubt exists about whether a child is at risk of self-harm:

  • liaise with the team leader or senior practitioner for advice and direction about assessing the risk of self-harm
  • consult other relevant professionals (for example, general practitioner, psychologist, other health provider, police, staff or representatives from government and community agencies) who have knowledge about the child or self harming behaviour, to obtain further information and advice.

After recording the self-harm alert, develop and where applicable, monitor self-harm risk management plan. For further information about the self-harm risk management plans, refer to 2.2 Develop a self-harm risk management plan, and 3. Review the self-harm management plan.