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Supporting Vulnerable Children and Families to Reduce Self Harm

Even with access to help and support from schools and healthcare workers, navigating the day-to-day challenges for children and teens who self-harm is an enormous challenge for those young people and their families. As such, the voluntary sector is often key for both prevention and treatment. Here Spurgeons Children's Charity outline their FISH project, which is an approach that some families may find useful to explore further.


Spurgeons Children’s Charity has been supporting vulnerable children and their families for over 150 years. With rates of self-harm in the UK rising, we felt compelled to act. We asked ourselves: how can this issue be addressed in the current economic climate?

In November 2017, our Freedom of Information requests from 32 NHS Trusts found around 60% of under 18s (between 2010-2016) who were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) by their GP were not receiving treatment.  The pressure on the NHS and other charitable organisations has been evident, given the rise in self harm presentations. We recognised a fundamental gap for those in need and who required the appropriate support. To compound this, there were no structured self-harm interventions for children and young people within a family setting.

With this in mind, and with funding secured from the Big Lottery Fund Reaching Communities Grant, we developed an innovative programme; the Family Intervention for Self Harm (FISH). Launched in October 2017, this pilot project supports 10-19 year olds who self harm and their families across Birmingham.

Our aim is to reduce instances and the severity of self-harming and lessen the likelihood of young people falling into crisis, without them requiring referral to a specialist mental health support service such as CAMHS.  Through offering an early intervention approach in this programme, we have been able to reduce the number of direct referrals to Forward Thinking Birmingham (a local replacement for CAMHS). This, in turn, allows them to further utilise their support with young people who have reached crisis point.

By establishing a family orientated and holistic approach, Spurgeons’ FISH project recognises that parental support is crucial in aiding a young person’s recovery from self harming. We offer a triad of support, incorporating weekly one to one sessions with young people, family sessions as well as facilitating parental peer groups.

You can see what has been said about our service below:

Inside Government Blog Image - Spurgeons FISH


More about Spurgeons Children’s Charity:

Spurgeons Children’s Charity provides support to vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families across England.

We believe that no child should face abuse, neglect or uncertainty. Through the delivery of support and intervention services and by speaking up on behalf of those who need us most, we give vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families the chance they need for a better present and more hope-filled future.

For further information about FISH please see our website or get in touch via telephone on 0121 638 0876 or by email on



Learn more about child mental health from organisations including Young Minds and the Mental Health Foundation.