Self harm strategy and action plan 2023 to 2027

Scotland's first dedicated self-harm strategy and action plan aims for anyone affected by self-harm, to receive compassionate support, without fear of stigma or discrimination. It is jointly owned by Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).


ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) - These are defined as highly stressful, and potentially traumatic, events or situations that occur during childhood and/or adolescence. They can be a single event, or prolonged threats to, and breaches of, the young person’s safety, security, trust or bodily integrity.

CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) - NHS Scotland Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are multi-disciplinary teams that provide (i) assessment and treatment/interventions in the context of emotional, developmental, environmental and social factors for children and young people experiencing mental health problems, and (ii) training, consultation, advice and support to professionals working with children, young people and their families.

Care Experienced - Anyone who has been or is currently in care or from a looked-after background at any stage of their life, no matter how short, including adopted children who were previously looked-after.

COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) - A councillor-led, cross-party organisation who champions councils’ vital work to secure the resources and powers they need. They work on councils’ behalf to focus on the challenges and opportunities they face, and to engage positively with governments and others on policy, funding and legislation.

Creating Hope Together - Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan.

DBI (Distress Brief Intervention) - A non-clinical, intervention which provides timely, one to one emotional and practical support to people who present in distress to frontline services.

Delivery Partner - An organisation working to deliver something.

Discrimination - An action, system or process that creates barriers and inequality for some people because of a particular characteristic.

Dissociation - Dissociation is one way the mind copes with too much stress, such as during a traumatic event. If you dissociate, you may feel disconnected from yourself and the world around you. For example, you may feel detached from your body or feel as though the world around you is unreal.

GIRFE (Getting It Right for Everyone) - A proposed multi-agency approach to health and social care support and services from young adulthood to end of life care.

GIRFEC (Getting it Right for Every Child) - Supports families by making sure children and young people can receive the right help, at the right time, from the right people. The aim is to help them to grow up feeling loved, safe and respected so that they can realise their full potential.

Incidence - The number of episodes of self-harm among a certain group of people during a specific period of time. It is different from prevalence.

Intersectionality - The relationship between social categorisations and/ or protected characteristics such as race, class, and gender.

LGBT+ - Includes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. While the acronym can vary, the general aim is to inclusively group together marginalised groups of sexual and gender identities.

Lived Experience - People who have a personal knowledge of something which has been gained through first hand experience. Their experience may be in the past or present, and is sometimes referred to as lived, or living.

Local Authority - A local council in Scotland. These councils provide public services such as education, social care and planning.

Marginalised groups - A group of people that may not enjoy the same privileges as the rest of the society. Some examples of marginalised groups include, disabled people, people of colour, LGBT+ people and people of a lower socio- economic status.

Mental Health - Mental Health is a part of our overall health, alongside our physical health. It is what we experience every day, and like physical health, it ebbs and flows daily. Good mental health means we can realise our full potential and feel safe and secure. It also means we thrive in everyday life.

Mental Illness - Mental illness is a health condition that affects emotions, thinking and behaviour, which substantially interferes with or limits our life. If left untreated, mental illnesses can significantly impact daily living, including our ability to work, care for family, and relate and interact with others.

Mental Wellbeing - Mental wellbeing is our internal positive view that we are coping well psychologically with the everyday stresses of life and can work productively and fruitfully. We feel happy and live our lives the way we choose.

NCISH (National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health) - A project based within the University of Manchester which has collected in-depth information on all suicides in the UK since 1996 and uses this information to make recommendations which aim to improve the safety of patients who may be at risk of suicide in mental health settings.

NES (NHS Education Scotland) - An education and training body and a national health board within NHS Scotland responsible for developing and delivering healthcare education and training for the NHS, health and social care sector and other public bodies.

Neurodiverse - People whose brain differences affect how their brain works. The possible differences include medical disorders, learning disabilities and other conditions such as dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorders.

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - NICE helps practitioners and commissioners, mainly in England and Wales, get the best care to patients, fast, while ensuring value for the taxpayer.

Outcomes - The changes we want to see as a result of taking action.

Peer Practitioner - A person with personal experience who is trained and employed to work in a formalised role in support of others experiencing similar issues, to assist their recovery.

Person-centred approach - An approach that acknowledges that people are experts in their own care and want to be treated as a whole person by professionals, be involved in decisions about their health and care; and be supported to actively manage their own health and wellbeing.

PHS (Public Health Scotland) - Scotland’s lead national agency for improving and protecting the health and wellbeing of all of Scotland’s people.

Poverty - A household is considered to be in poverty if their income if less than 60% of the average income for that household type

Prevalence - How common a given issue or experience is within a population, either at a point in time or over a given period of time (it includes new and existing cases). It is different from incidence.

Prevention - The action of stopping something from happening or arising.

Psychosocial Assessment - A comprehensive assessment including an evaluation of the person’s needs, safety considerations and vulnerabilities that is designed to identify those personal psychological, social and environmental factors that might affect someone’s mental health and risk of crisis (including self-harm.)

Psychological Self-Harm - Also known as emotional self-harm, it can include blaming oneself for any problems, thinking you are not good enough or engaging in negative self-talk.

Recovery - Being able to live a good life, as defined by you, with or without symptoms.

Risk and Protective Factors - Individual, social and structural characteristics, circumstances and factors that make it more or less likely that people will self-harm.

Safety Plan - A written, prioritised list of coping strategies and/ or sources of support that the person who has self-harmed can use to help alleviate a crisis. Components can include recognising warning signs, listing coping strategies, involving friends and family members and contacting mental health services.

Self-harm - Intentional self-poisoning or injury, irrespective of the apparent purpose. See page 9.

Severe and enduring mental illness - Includes conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, other psychosis, personality disorders and any other mental health disorder (like severe depression, OCD and neurodiverse conditions) of a severe and enduring nature.

Socio-economic - Relates to the differences between groups of people caused by their social and/or financial situation.

Stakeholder - eople, groups or organisations that are affected by, or hold an interest in, the work or activity of an organisation or service.

Stigma - A set of negative beliefs or attitudes that a society or group of people have based on a preconception, misunderstanding or fear.

The Promise - The Promise is the programme of change demanded by the findings of the Independent Care Review, to ensure that every child in Scotland grows up loved, safe and respected, able to realise their full potential.

Time Space Compassion - A set of principles to deliver better responses to people in suicidal crisis.

Trauma-Informed Practice - Being able to recognise when someone may be affected by trauma, collaboratively adjusting how we work to take this into account, responding in a way that does no harm and recognises and supports people’s resilience and recovery.

Verity House Agreement - A partnership agreement between the Scottish Government and Local Government. The agreement signifies a shared vision for a more collaborative approach to delivering shared priorities for the people of Scotland. It includes commitments to empower local communities, tackle poverty, transform the economy and provide high-quality public services.



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