Can I Tell You About Self-Harm – Book of the Month, book review

Can I Tell You About Self-Harm by Pooky Knightsmith

A massive thank you to Cairns Moir Connections for naming Can I Tell You About Self-Harm as their book of the month - and thank you to Judy Furnviall for such a glowing review. I'm always delighted when people find my books worth reading and sharing - if you've read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts too.. please leave a comment below, or better still write a review on Amazon.

[If you'd like to review any of for your website or magazine, drop me a line to organise a review copy]

Here's Judy's review, which you can also read here.

The book is written from the standpoint of fourteen year old Asher. The text and the clever illustrations mean that Asher could be either a girl or a boy, allowing every young person to identify easily with the central character and preventing easy assumptions that self-harm is a gender specific problem. The illustrations and text make it clear that self-harm may affect anyone regardless of ethnicity or gender.

Asher explains why young people might hurt themselves, how hard it is to give up this way of coping and what friends, families and professionals can do to help. As well as helping people affected by the self-harm of others to feel less anxious and helpless, the book also addresses the loneliness and sense of shame that can be experienced by young people who self- harm. It provides practical suggestions for young people to begin to get control over their feelings and engenders hope that, ultimately, they will be able to find alternative methods of coping. Without ever advocating self-harm, it makes it understandable and also explores how to make self-injury as safe as possible. The language is simple but not patronising and the book explores a wide range of experiences and ideas in less than seventy pages.

Having read this book I will be incorporating it into any future self-harm training I may do. It is intended to be accessible to children as young as seven and its vocabulary and language construction certainly meet this aim. Yet, this book includes within its covers many of the most difficult and at times counter-intuitive ideas that still evoke resistance and anxiety among practitioners and managers in care, education and health settings.  It demystifies self-harm without normalising it and reduces anxiety for all involved, by providing helpful ideas for responding to anyone who use self-harm to cope with their distress as well as suggestions for helping young people to gain some control over their own self-injurious behaviour.

I wish every young person who self-harmed could have a copy of this book.  Its audience, however, should stretch well beyond this particular group of young people- their family, friends, teachers and any other professionals involved with them would benefit from reading this. Its messages that self-harm can be understood  and that children who hurt themselves need people to listen to them rather than to control them, are ones we all need to hear.

Judy Furnivall Consultant CELCIS University of Strathclyde Trustee of Scottish Attachment in Action