Ask Sam letter


To Sam


In a lot of confidentiality policies, ie school and doctors, it says that they don't have to tell anyone unless they are concerned about your "safety" or that you are "in danger". I find both these terms too vague (I'm trying to decide whether or not to tell school about self harm). How do I know what counts as unsafe or danger? And I don't want to ask the school itself as they will ask why i am asking.

Ask Sam


Hi there,

Confidentiality is about what someone will keep between you and them and not tell anyone else about. Schools, doctors, social workers and anyone else in a position of trust with young people can't keep everything confidential. If you're in danger, they'll probably tell someone else to make sure you get the help you need. What counts as being in danger can depend on the situation.

What it means to be unsafe is very difficult to say for all cases. But there are some things that are usually considered unsafe like being hurt in some way - either emotionally or physically - or for your life to be at risk. It can be someone else who's making you unsafe or sometimes it can be your own thoughts and feelings.

Childline can keep most things confidential and our confidentiality promise says what we will keep between you and us. But it's not the same for everyone else. Adults who are trusted to work with young people, like teachers, have a responsibility to make sure you're kept safe. It can be a really good idea to tell someone you trust about self-harm. But I know that worries about confidentiality can sometimes make it harder to talk about what's happening.

If you were to tell your school that you're harming yourself it's very likely they'll want to get you help, which would usually mean telling the people who care for you at home. It's important that if you make that decision to tell your school, you know what might happen. It might be worth thinking about why you want to tell school in the first place. If you're looking for help, they should want to help get you the help you need. It might feel like speaking to them is giving away control, but telling them or an adult you trust can be a way to get help and support.

If you want to talk with one of our counsellors before telling anyone else, they'd be happy to explain how we work and talk about self-harm or any other worries with you. They won't judge you and it's a safe space to talk about what's happening before you choose what to do next.

I hope this has helped. Thanks for your letter.


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