Half of people uncomfortable renting to person who self-harms, survey finds

Research from Samaritans highlights stigma in society and workplace over self-harm

More than half of people who took part in a survey said they would not feel comfortable renting an apartment to someone who self-harmed, according to new research carried out by the Samaritans.

A survey carried out by suicide prevention charity Samaritans Ireland also found 64 per cent of people would not carpool with someone who they knew self-harmed.

Samaritans, who run a 24/7 phone line for people in distress or feeling suicidal, said the “staggering” findings pointed to the ongoing stigma experienced by people who self-harmed.

While 769 people took part in the survey, only less than a third of those had experienced self-harm themselves.


The other respondents included people who had supported someone who self harmed, professionals working in the area, or members of the general public.

Samaritans said on average those who took part in the study who had self-harmed started when they were 16-years-old.

However, in one case an individual reported self harming from as early as four-years-old, while another said they started aged 50. The research said for most people the length of time they self-harmed was 13 years.

Of people who had not self-harmed, four fifths said they would feel unsure about talking to their employer about the subject, for fear of judgement.

More than half of them said knowing a person self-harmed would make them less likely to start a relationship with the individual.

Some 30 per cent of survey respondents said they would be less likely to hire someone if they believed they self-harmed.

Nearly half of those without direct experience of self-harm said signs of someone self-harming would impact their perception of the person.

However, three quarters of the cohort said they would be comfortable if a close friend or family member told them they self-harmed.

When it came to people who had self-harmed, nearly 90 per cent of respondents told the survey they felt others had a lower opinion of them as a result.

Some 55 per cent of those surveyed said they believed the average person was “afraid” of someone who self-harmed, the research said.

Samaritans said the “first of its kind” study clearly highlighted the stigma facing people who self-harmed.

Mark Kennedy, assistant director of Samaritans Ireland, said the research showed society “frequently inflicts” profound stigma on those who self-harm.

Samaritans describes self-harm as a deliberate act of self-injury, which is carried out without suicidal intent.

The survey was open to people in the Republic and Northern Ireland and carried out between September and October 2022.

The report said it was clear self-harm was not an issue that only affected young people and was often not a “passing phase” someone would grow out of.

It said “negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media” could lead to further stigmatisation and isolation of people who self-harm.

The research said the findings pointed to a “significant” amount of discrimination in the workplace for those who self-harmed, which needed to be addressed.

It also recommended better educational programmes in schools and universities aimed at reducing self-harm as well as the stigma surrounding it.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times