Self-harm conference attracts record number of delegates

November 2022

West Sussex Mind's training team had 960 participants for its first pan-Sussex self-harm conference, attracting its largest number of delegates ever

[Picture: Spoken word artist, Sami Rhymes, who gave a passionate performance at the conference about self-harm, mental health and identity]

West Sussex Mind hosted its largest ever online training event last week, with over 460 people attending the first Pan-Sussex Self-Harm Learning Network conference, and an additional 500 people signing up for recordings of the conference.

Parents, teachers, education, police, ambulance and prison service professionals attended the all-day conference – with interest in the event exceeding all expectations.

The network conference featured a range of presentations, from a keynote by internationally recognised expert in child and adolescent mental health, Dr Pooky Knightsmith, and other leading self-harm and suicide prevention experts, to a live interview with a parent and a performance from award-winning spoken word artist, Sami Rhymes (pictured).

“It was a fantastic day and the number of attendees and feedback from delegates exceeded our expectations,” said Alison Lake, project manager for the Self-Harm Learning Network, a collaboration between West Sussex Mind, West Sussex and East Sussex County Councils, Brighton & Hove City Council, YMCA Downslink and Allsorts Youth Project.

“The highlight for me was the session from Sami Rhymes, who delivered a brilliant 45-minute performance about self-harm, mental health and identity. It was emotive and powerful content and offered something very different for our audience.”

LGBTQIA+ charity, Allsorts Youth Project, and Grass Roots Suicide Prevention led a highly interactive session in which they invited participants to answer questions and give feedback, with further sessions from YMCA Downslink Group, Professor Ellen Townsend and Dr Caroline Clements. In addition, a parent of a young man with autism who self-harms gave a powerful testimony about how becoming involved in the learning network and using the resources had literally changed her life.

The organisers had mental health practitioners on standby throughout the event to support anyone who was triggered by elements of the content.

The high level of interest in the conference highlights the demand for support with self-harm, which is of increasing concern, particularly among children and young people. “It is imperative that we continue to have open discussions with young people about their mental health and the Self-Harm Learning Network supports school staff, parents and carers to have these difficult conversations, which we know can help children and young people stay safe,” said Katie Glover, CEO of West Sussex Mind.

Feedback on the conference was very positive. “I just wanted to thank you for the amazing conference today on self-harm. It was so valuable, and I truly appreciate all the work from the team and the speakers,” said one delegate. Another delegate described Sami’s poetry as “powerful and filled with passion and emotion” and said, “thank you for sharing these poems, Sami, what a great gift you have.”

All of the talks and workshops were made available to delegates on demand with an additional 500 people signing up to receive recordings of the conference. A replay of the livestream of the full conference was also made available to delegates after the event.

The Self-Harm Learning Network has further free training dates from December 2022 to March 2023 to explore how to help a young person who has self-harmed. For booking, visit self-harm training.