Find out more about self-harm and why you might feel this way...
Sometimes when we are struggling with a problem that feels too big to handle, we hurt ourselves in order to feel better. We might want to hurt ourselves because it makes us feel good, relieved, and takes our mind off our problems. When someone hurts themselves on purpose, this is called self-harm.
Self harm is an unhealthy way to cope with our problems, but there are other ways to manage our distress.
Read on to learn more about what to do if you or someone you know is self-harming.
If you need emergency or immediate medical treatment, get Help Now.
All of this information has been drawn together with the help of young people.
These pages aim to help you to:
Good question! We all have different ways of coping with distress. 10% of young people in the UK self-harm to cope with their problems. If you or someone you know is self-harming, it might look like one of the following:
Self-harm is often a sign of another problem underneath.
Knowing what may trigger your self-harm is a helpful step in working out how to reduce and eventually stop self-harming.
You might self-harm because:
If you are currently self-harming, you need to access support from a professional to make sure you have treated any immediate injuries. If you leave your injuries untreated and hide them, it could lead to infection and other health complications.
Have a think about why you might be self-harming. What problems could you be trying to deal with?
Then try to think about someone you can trust—a teacher, a parent, a mentor—who can listen to you. If the idea of talking about self-harming is too scary, try talking to them about that problem you might be trying to deal with first.
You can also find support from services in your local area here.
If you need urgent help please click here.
When I moved to a new school, I was really shy in class. I had a lot of trouble understanding the teachers; they taught different subjects than I was used to, and we went through the topics too quickly for me to keep up. I began falling behind and avoiding class because I just felt like I couldn’t keep up. I was too ashamed to tell my parents who were so proud of me at my previous school, I didn’t want to disappoint them so I would pretend everything was fine. When I began self-harming, I didn’t know what I was doing, it just started as a habit that calmed me down especially before exam period.
When I was around my friends, I could enjoy myself and forget about school, but I began to feel really ashamed and self-conscious about my scars. I felt like I would get in trouble if anybody found out about my weird habit, and my new friends wouldn’t understand. I started making excuses not to meet up with them in person, and most of my friendships existed only online.
One day my friend Joy convinced me to join a study group at her house after school. I was having fun, laughing and sharing pizza, but when it was my turn to share what I was working on I felt nervous and worried they would realise how behind I was. I went to the toilet to get some relief from the pressure I felt. Joy came to check on me and saw my scars.
To my surprise, she wasn’t shocked or disgusted by me. Instead she showed me a scar she had hidden on her leg from a surgery. She was constantly worried and embarrassed about it too. Then she ran out and brought both of our worksheets. I had only answered 3 questions, and so had she. I felt a lot less alone after that.
I’m trying to find a different way to relieve the pressure I was feeling from school. I found that playing tennis after school made me less nervous to be there, and after joining the tennis team I felt proud of something I did at school that wasn’t schoolwork. I still get nervous or anxious sometimes, but now I know I can talk to Joy about it, and that my parents will still be proud of me no matter what.
If you’re currently self-harming, or if you have self-harmed before and are worried about doing it again, there are steps you can take to stop yourself from self-harming. Click on the self-prescription below to work out how!
We have put together a few useful resources on how to deal with self-harm.
Self-harming often causes feelings of shame, guilt and loneliness, but the truth is you aren’t alone! Think about someone you can trust in your life like a parent, a teacher, your GP or a youth worker. Then think about how you could tell them that you are self-harming. If talking about self-harming seems too scary, maybe find another way to tell them: texting, drawing or writing a letter may be more comfortable.If you don’t know how to ask for help, think about what problems in your life you are trying to cope with. It might be easier to talk to someone you trust about that problem first. Write down some key areas in your life, and ask yourself: Is there something here making me unhappy?
If you are self-harming, you need to access support from a professional. When you tell a professional, they will give you a medical assessment to treat any immediate injuries you might have.
Treatment for people who self-harm usually involves seeing a therapist to discuss your thoughts and feelings, and how these affect your behaviour and wellbeing.
They can also teach you coping strategies to help prevent further episodes of self-harm.
GUESS WHAT! It’s ok to be exactly as you are!
It is definitely normal to feel shame or guilt about self-harming. So don’t be too hard on yourself! Instead, you can manage these feelings by practising acceptance and self-care. It will be hard to accept that you are having these feelings, but acknowledging it rather than hiding or pretending is an important step to kicking a self-harm habit.
It’s easy to practice acceptance if you show yourself some love! What makes you feel good about yourself? Is it playing the sport you’re best at or wearing your favourite jumper? Build your self-esteem by doing one thing that makes you feel good about yourself every day.
If you are self-conscious about scars from self-harm, you’re not alone. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget that maybe your scars aren’t as obvious to others as you think. Many young people really struggle with the appearance of scars from self-harm, but there is more to them than just the marks on your body.
Learning to accept your scars isn’t going to happen overnight—you have to practice! In the meantime, you can try to find alternatives that make you feel less self-conscious, like using creams to help them fade.
When getting treatment and counselling for self-harm, one of the things a professional might help you do is to find a healthy alternative to self-harming. This is often to distract you from the feeling that makes you want to self-harm or to help you feel relief in another way. Some healthy alternatives are:
If you are worried about self-harming again, some other ways you can plan are:
Create a ‘Safe Box’ with things that bring you joy and happy memories and look at it the next time you feel like self-harming. Each week, reflect on your thoughts and feelings, and add something to your Safe Box. This could be digital—a playlist of the songs you listened to on a road trip, a collection of funny videos from social media, or a folder with photos from your favourite holiday.
Self-harming is often a sign of other mental health difficulties which can worsen over time if left untreated.
If you are self-harming, or have in the past and are worried about self-harming again, it’s important to speak to your GP.
There are some services that can help you but it’s a good idea to speak to someone you trust first so that you have some support in your day to day life.