Heads Above The Waves (HATW) acknowledges that dealing with issues around self-harm, and any potential associated issues can be stressful to staff members. The wellbeing of staff is vital to the ethos of HATW, as well as meaning we can continue with our work. All staff should feel safe, supported, and confident in carrying out all work for HATW.


After completion of any workshop, every HATW worker involved with that session will be required to complete a debrief form, summarising what they felt went well, what could be improved, any unexpected outcomes, and any stand out quotes/comments (good or bad) from the young people involved in the session.

These forms are to be filled in immediately after the session has ended, so that any concerns and issues may be addressed straight away. Any issues that arise that appear to be child protection issues will be handled according to the HATW Child Protection Policy.

All forms will be stored securely in a locked drawer, in accordance with the HATW Data Protection Policy.

All workshop staff should also verbally debrief with each other as well as with any other sessional staff involved, e.g. youth workers, teachers, other agency staff.

If someone is carrying out a workshop by themselves, then they should verbally debrief with someone else within HATW that same day, either in person or on the phone.

During a verbal debrief, all concerns should be addressed, and a plan of action made to resolve these concerns. This may include following up with a third party (such as a school) and so, whenever possible, all third parties involved in the workshop should also be present during a verbal debrief.

In the case of other work such as assemblies and one-to-one work, verbal debriefs should be done wherever possible, but written notes are not necessary, unless a particular issue is raised that causes concern.


Staff may need to attend events, such as gigs or festivals, to promote HATW. While these are less likely to be as intense as workshops, members of the public may still disclose self-harming behaviours or distressing events.

Should a disclosure occur, staff should be sure to debrief to each other about it, especially if unsure on how to best react or follow up. Disclosures of child abuse or neglect should be dealt with in line with the Child Protection Policy.

Wherever possible, staff should operate in pairs – especially at larger events. Staff should take shifts when possible, to share a workload of both sales of merchandise and discussions with the public.

Staff should take regular breaks, especially following an intense conversation with a member of the public.

Communication with Service Users

The nature of the HATW means that staff will be in contact with vulnerable people, dealing with a range of stressful and difficult situations.

For the protection and wellbeing of both HATW staff and service users, never give your personal details to service users, or promise any form of additional support. This includes, but isn’t limited to, phone numbers, addresses, and social media details.

If a service user does request further support from you, direct them to the HATW website and/or to existing organisations who are able to provide such support.

When someone contacts the HATW website or social media, they should be conversed with normally, and in plain English. However, if someone should disclose abuse, or cause serious concern for their own wellbeing or the wellbeing of others, you’ll need to follow the Child Protection Policy, and make them aware of this.

Where possible, try not to get into conversation with the person contacting HATW about their particular situation or issues, and instead recommend that they approach someone who is able to provide more comprehensive support.

Don’t tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do. Instead, suggest things that may work for them, based on other experiences shared with HATW.

While staff should feel prepared to talk about self-harm and offer low level support at any time or place, there must be a clear separation between your role as a HATW worker and your personal life.

To this end, it is important for staff to take time every day, especially if carrying out “front line” work (such as workshops, or stalls at events), to relax and unwind doing something they enjoy, and not related to HATW work.

It’s at your discretion whether you take on a supportive or listening role within your personal life, but it should be made clear that it is not within your role as a HATW worker.

Staff should avoid entering into relationships with service users, outside of their role within HATW.

Staff Support

Staff should constantly keep in touch with each other, via any medium, to check in on each other, and provide peer-to-peer support for one another.

Should you require additional support or someone else to talk to, either contact an outside listening service, or get in touch with the voluntary counsellor for HATW, and request time to talk through your concerns. Conversations with the voluntary counsellor are bound by the same confidentiality and privacy guidelines as all HATW work.

Staff who have a history of past self-harm

HATW believes that particularly effective support can be provided for service users when staff have a good understanding of what it is like to experience self-harm, either through personal experience or through training. For this reason (and in line with the Equal Opportunities Policy) staff may have personal experience of a struggle with self-harm themselves. Care will be taken during the employment process to ensure that staff are comfortable talking openly about self-harm on a regular basis, due to the nature of the role. However, certain topics, language or imagery may still be distressing and these should be made aware to the Directors before any contact with service users.

If you find yourself being triggered, or distressed by anything happening through HATW’s work, you should excuse yourself from the session and discuss the issue with one of the Directors or the voluntary counsellor as soon as possible.

For this reason, HATW work will always be conducted with at least 2 members of staff on hand (or if this is not possible, a supporting member of staff should be found – from a partner agency, school, etc).

HATW believes that everyone should be able to talk honestly and openly about their experience with self-harm, including staff, but it’s important to state that no-one – staff or service user – should feel pressured into sharing personal experiences beyond what they’re comfortable to do.


Bullying can happen anywhere, including in the workplace, and HATW has a zero tolerance policy on bullying from one member of staff to another. If you feel concerned about bullying, you should immediately contact your line manager, who will take steps to prevent it continuing.

Support Agencies for Staff and Service Users

National Self-Harm Network – 0800 622 6000 – nshn.co.uk – support@nshn.co.uk
The Mix – 0808 808 4994 – themix.org.uk
ChildLine – 0800 1111 – childline.org.uk
Samaritans – 116123 – samaritans.org – jo@samaritans.org
NightLine – nightline.ac.uk/nightlines to find your local branch
SupportLine – 01708 765 200 – supportline.org.uk
CALL Helpline – 0800 132 737 – callhelpline.org.uk – Text “Help” to 81066
MIND Info Line – 0300 123 3393 – mind.org.uk
SANE – 0300 3047000 – sane.org.uk

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