Project MH38

SORTS – SuppOrtive Response To Self-harm

The SORTS project is developing an online training programme and resource toolkit to help school staff respond to students who self-harm. We have co-produced the training content in partnership with the Charlie Waller Trust.


In the UK, self-harm among young people is more common than in any European country. Nearly 20% of young people report that they self-harm and the risk increases sharply during the teenage years. Research shows that young people who self-harm are more likely to have mental health difficulties in later life and are at a higher risk of suicide. Reports suggest the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted young people's mental health and a recent survey shows that 10% of 8 -13 year olds reported having self-harmed at least once during the lockdown period. Despite this, only a fifth of YP who self-harm receive help from health services.

Project Aims

This study aimed to design an online training programme and resource toolkit to improve the staff response to students who self-harm. It is aimed at all staff working in schools, including those in admin, support and teaching roles. We believe that the SORTS training will increase staff knowledge, skills and confidence in how to respond to students who self-harm and this will encourage young people to seek help. 

Project Activity

We have coproduced the SORTS training content with the Charlie Waller Trust and by working closely with secondary school students, school staff and mental health professionals.

Initially, we ran focus groups with young people to explore their expectations of how schools and staff should respond to self-harm and what support they would want. We then convened an expert panel to coproduce the training content which included representatives from the Charlie Waller Trust and school mental health staff. We have also run school staff workshops to co-design the training resources and to capture their views about responding to students who self-harm. Based on the feedback from school staff, we are now coproducing an e-learning module for schools about self-harm.

Anticipated output

The main outputs from this study: 

  • The SORTS website which includes training content and a resource toolkit for schools:
  • An interactive e-learning module about self-harm 
  • Two short films showing different scenarios and responses to a disclosure of self-harm in school
  • Young people and school staff’s reflections on how schools should support students who self-harm
  • Guidelines for schools on supporting students who self-harm

Who was involved?

Papers and resources

  • Academic papers: Burn, A. M., Hall, P., & Anderson, J. (2024). A Web-Based Training Program for School Staff to Respond to Self-Harm: Design and Development of the Supportive Response to Self-Harm Program. JMIR Formative Research, 8(1), e50024  10.2196/50024 


Anne-Marie Burn-