Health / Stresses of pandemic highlighted as reason behind rise in self-harm related referrals

THERE has been a significant increase in the number of referrals to the Shetland Public Protection Committee related to adults self-harming – with the impact of the pandemic thought to be the main cause.

Figures included in the committee’s annual report showed that in 2020/21 there were 98 referrals related to self-harm, which was up from 43 in the previous year.


There were 18 referrals linked to self-neglect, compared to eight in 2019/20.

The report was presented to a meeting of Shetland’s integration joint board on Tuesday by the council’s chief social work officer Denise Morgan.

The Shetland Public Protection Committee was formed in 2019, bringing together separate child and adult committees.

It involves a number of health, social work, police and voluntary sector staff all focused on the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and adults.

The latest report shows that the over the year there were 267 types of harm linked to referrals, which was a rise from 225 in 2019/20.


“What is notable in 2020/21 is the number of referrals received related to self-harm, and emotional and psychological distress – 98 and 46 respectively,” the report said.

“Following discussion at the quality assurance subcommittee it was assessed that this is related to the stresses concerned to adults during the pandemic and is indicative of the increased need being experienced by mental health services.”

Public protection committee chairman Tam Baillie said in the report that the response from staff during the pandemic was “truly exceptional”.

“We have endured a lot of adverse circumstances and we cannot be sure about the long-term impacts on the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals,” he wrote.

“Yet, we have come through and my sense is that not only did our services and communities demonstrate resilience, the experience of overcoming the onslaught makes us better prepared for the very significant challenges ahead and gives me hope for the future.”