Self-harm is when someone has the intention of hurting or wounding their body to cause a physical pain

Schoolgirl sat on street looking sad

Why do people self-harm?

Self-harm is often related to emotional pain, which is difficult to express. Some people self-harm to divert their internal pain externally. Some do it to join in with others. Some people want everything to ‘go away’, and some people want others to notice them.

Usually people don't intend to cause themselves long-term damage by self-harming, but they become overwhelmed and use self-harm as a way of managing feelings of distress.

Types of self-harm

  • Cutting or burning the skin
  • Misusing drugs or alcohol, or poisoning yourself with medications or other harmful liquids
  • Banging your head, pulling out hair or picking at skin
  • Starving yourself or eating too much
  • Physical exhaustion: exercising or working too much, or not resting.

If self-harm is accompanied by feelings of wanting to not be around anymore, you must tell someone so that you can have support.

Self-harm support

  • Speak to a trusted family member or friend: Perhaps they see signs which you don’t.
  • Talking therapy: Find ways that you can release emotional pain effectively and reduce or stop self-harming.
  • Find healthier ways to reduce harm to your body: Some people find benefits from things like squeezing cornflakes or ice or writing on their arm in red, which don't have as many risks.
  • Self-care: If you do self-harm, you must make sure you do everything you can to reduce the risk of something very serious happening. This means keeping things clean to reduce the risk of infection, and not locking doors so someone can always help you if needed.
  • Don't keep yourself isolated: Spend time with family and friends who have a positive impact on how you feel.
  • If you are worried about someone self-harming: It is really worrying when someone we love or care for is self-harming. It is important to keep calm and not get angry with them. Getting someone to stop self-harming straight away without alternative support is not always the best thing to do. Speak to a professional who can give you specific advice about the situation.

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