• Do you think self-harm is a mental health diagnosis or behaviour of concern?
  • Do you remember when you involved yourself in a risky, self-harming, life-threatening situation? 
  • Does this situation give you a sense of relief, a new meaning, or an escape? 

For some, it was just an adventure; for others, it was a sense of satisfaction. I know one friend who is a heavy drinker and says, ‘chillax, I drink to sleep’. In my recent article, I discussed 37 reasons people would engage in self-harm which explains ‘How a Social Worker can help with self-harming behaviour’. Social Workers are highly qualified and trained professionals to understand human behaviour. Suppose you or your loved one continuously get involved in risky or self-harming behaviour with a sense of satisfaction and escape from the current situation, then it is the right time to reach out to a social worker to get the proper support. Why a social worker? Because social workers practice a diverse range of settings such as hospitals, community health services, the department of human rights, child protection services, councils, not-for-profit, private companies, educational institutes, and advocacy. Social Workers always help the community to improve the quality of life.

Those who have witnessed self-harm must have contacted their GP. The GP will address the issue and recommend the neurologist who will assess and may prescribe the medication. Nurses & dieticians together observe and support the individual (person who has self-harm) to live a quality life. Sometimes, the behaviour may escalate due to uncontemplated situations. And it becomes the responsibility of a social worker to investigate and advocate for you and your loved one. Social workers will dive deeply into the individual\’s life to collect all the medical, financial, personal, private, social, functional, behavioural, and psychosocial history. Social Worker will interview the family members, friends and other sources, including the GP, Nurse, dietician, and neurologist, to gather the information. And would also talk to the individual about the situation. This process takes around 2-3 hours. 

After collecting all the background and current information, it is time to address the crisis, such as child and family welfare, homelessness, mental and physical health issues, substance abuse, poverty, unemployment, disability, family violence, trauma, refugees, offending behaviour and prepare for any intervention, crisis management and care planning. Sometimes when the individual is not ready to talk, the social worker solicits psychologists to help identify the triggers. Once the triggers are identified, the social worker will investigate the roots of the motivation, what, who and how it is escalating, how it was addressed when it was observed during the initial stages and will transpire the Positive behaviour support, specialist, to start working on identified triggers and coping strategies that will avoid the triggers and convert the negative reinforcement to positive reinforcement. Psychologists, Physiotherapists, Exercise physiologists, occupational therapists and speech therapists will implement coping strategies and positive reinforcement, reactive strategies, and response strategies designed by Positive behaviour support specialists to help the individual gain the confidence to eliminate or reduce the risk of self-harm.

After this, the Positive behaviour support specialist will educate the social worker & family members on implementing the coping strategies, use of positive reinforcement, reactive strategies, and response strategies to eliminate or reduce the risk of self-harm individuals.

In case the individual is an NDIS participant:

Coping strategies and other positive reinforcement plans will be delivered to the support coordinator by a Positive behaviour support specialist who will be further responsible for educating and aware family members, support team providers or independent support workers, and allied health team to eliminate or reduce the risk of self-harm.

Upon further plan review, the Positive Behaviour Support Specialist can include a behaviour plan that includes:

  • What are the areas that have to be focused
  • What teams have to be  included & why
  • What are the triggers for the behaviour of concern
  • How to reduce the behaviour
  • What are the support providers on board

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