A PLAY that aims to highlight the growing problem of self-harm among young people is beginning a tour of the county’s secondary schools.

Under My Skin seeks to challenge the taboos around the issue, which is responsible for hundreds of hospital admissions every year.

It was written by playwright Ali Taylor, commissioned by Oxfordshire County Council and developed by East Oxford’s youth theatre Pegasus, based on discussions with young people who have self-harmed.

The first of more than 30 performances will take place at Henry Box School in Witney this morning before the production visits schools including Cheney, Didcot Girls and The Oxford Academy over the next three weeks.

Corinne Micallef, artistic director at Pegasus, said: “We know self-harm is an increasing problem and that pressure on young people is ever worsening.

“The public health team came to us and said: ‘we think that a play would help to tackle this issue and shed light on it’.

“There is a stigma and shame attached to the issue and young people find it hard to discuss it with anyone.

“Our play acts as a catalyst for people to seek treatment and also helps others around them to have a better idea of what to do.”

The play follows the story of two school children, Sean and Bella, and Ms Micallef said it challenges stereotypes in that it is the confident, popular Sean who secretly self harms.

She added: “It’s also very funny in parts; we didn’t want it to be preachy or it just wouldn’t work.

“At first some schools were wary that we might glamourise the issue but the reception has been so positive everywhere that their fears have been totally allayed.”

This is the third year the play has been taken on a tour of schools and Ms Micallef says that every single time it has been performed, the school has cases of people coming forward to seek help for self-harming.

Some 552 young people aged 10-24 were admitted to hospital in Oxfordshire after self-harming in 2015/16, the latest year for which figures are available.

After watching the play, pupils are given a chance to ask questions and take home leaflets telling them where to seek advice.

Kate Benfield, who plays Bella said: “It is very identifiable, I knew people who talked about self-harm at school but you don’t know what to do.

“You don’t come ready-equipped with the skills to deal with it as a teenager but we hope children leave the play feeling more confident about seeking help.”