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Self harm

Self-harm is when you hurt yourself as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences. For some people, self-harm can be a coping strategy, a way of dealing with confusing thoughts or feelings inside. 

Some people have described self-harm as a way to:

  • express something that is hard to put into words
  • have a sense of being in control
  • escape traumatic memories
  • punish yourself for your feelings and experiences
  • express suicidal feelings and thoughts without taking their own life.

There are not always reasons why people self-harm. Any difficult experience can cause someone to self-harm.

Some common reasons might include:

  • Pressures at school or work
  • Bullying
  • Sexual, physical or emotional abuse
  • Bereavement
  • Confusion about your sexuality
  • Breakdown of a relationship
  • Low self esteem.

Sometimes you might not know why you hurt yourself and this can be frustrating for people to understand. If you don’t understand the reasons for your self-harm, you are not alone and you can still ask for help.

It is important to know that self-harm does carry risks. Once you have started to depend on self-harm, it can take a long time to stop or change the behaviour.


It is important to get health advice around keeping yourself safe if self- harming. Wounds can become infected if not treated carefully which can lead to further complications.

Talking to people you trust, whether that is parents/carers or a trusted adult at school or college can help. Although they might not understand, they might be able to support you in accessing further help if you want it.

Sometimes distracting yourself when you get the urge to self-harm can help. You may create a distraction box with a favourite film, some of your favourite music, an activity you enjoy to do or some special photographs. These can then be used as a distraction or reward to replace the self- harming behaviour.

Sometimes replacing self-harming behaviour writing a letter of everything that you’re feeling, then rip it up.

Mindfulness is a great way you can help to manage your emotions. This where you focus on the present such as concentrating on what’s happening right now. By doing this you should be able to gain an awareness of your feelings and thoughts. By understanding and practising mindfulness, you can learn to cope better with stressful situations.

Doing breathing exercises on a regular basis can be a healthy habit for life. Breathing exercises are great because you can do them anywhere, anytime!

Young Minds Crisis Messenger offers free 24/7 support if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. Text YM to 85258