South West PeninsulaMental Health
Start Date: 1 Jun 2011


Self-harm accounts for an estimated 140,000 admissions to Accident & Emergency departments in England and Wales every year.  Rates of self-harm have been rising steadily since the late 1960s, particularly within the 15-24 age group.  Those who repeatedly self-harm are at high risk of eventual suicide.  Establishing a service that may decrease the frequency with which individuals self-harm may ultimately save lives, as well as offering vulnerable people much-needed support.

Research has shown that maintaining contact with those that self-harm (through letters, postcards, crisis cards and telephone calls) has some potential to reduce repetition. A previous Peninsula Medical School study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research's Research for Patient Benefit programme, explored the potential of sending supportive text messages to adults who engage in repeated self-harm.  This method may prove invaluable for young people, who report that they are unlikely to seek professional help either before or after an episode of self-harm.

TeenTEXT is designed for use with children and adolescents aged 12-18 who self-harm, together with parents, carers and clinicians working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Project aims

  • To modify the existing text-messaging intervention and tailor it to the needs of children and adolescents
  • To assess the acceptability and feasibility of this remodelled intervention
  • To design and secure funding for a pilot randomised controlled trial to determine how effective  the system is and how benefi-cial it is to children and adolescents who self-harm

Current activity

  • Remodelled the existing text-messaging service  to meet the needs of children and adolescents, using a user-centred design process
  • Carried out preliminary testing of the redeveloped text-messaging service and identified and resolved initial design problems
  • Secured external funding for a feasibility study, the aim of which is to "test drive" it in the real world and see how easy it is for CAMHS clinicians and clients to use and whether it can be incorprated into everyday clinical practice.

Anticipated impacts

  • Add to the range of interventions that are available for clinicians to use with children and adolescents who self-harm
  • Encourage self management of self-harm in this age group
  • Potentially save cost to the NHS, through a reduction in A&E presentations, and ultimately save lives

Current status

The feasibility study, funded by the BUPA Foundation is underway and is scheduled to complete in September 2014.

Dr Christabel Owens