It can be hard to cope with painful or overwhelming feelings, memories and situations.

Sometimes these strong feelings make people want to hurt themselves on purpose because they don’t know how else to cope. This is called self-harm.

It’s not easy to talk about self-harm, whether you hurt yourself or know someone who self-harms. It can be scary for the person doing it and their friends and family.

Self-harm can be dangerous but our teams are here to listen to you, support you and show other ways of coping with overwhelming feelings.


How can I get help?

Click here if you need urgent help.

Self-harm can be a sign of other mental health challenges you may be facing, such as depression or anxiety.

If you are affected by self harm, you should speak to a family member, teacher, youth worker or GP. Your school or GP will be able to refer you to Emotional Wellbeing & Mental Health

Ways to help avoid self harm

Try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member, trained volunteer or health professional

  • Call Meic on 080880 23456 or text 84001
  • text YM to 85258 for the Young Minds Textline
  • Call Samarians on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans

Try to work out if feeling a certain way leads to your self harm.

For example, if you usually self harm when you feel sad or worried, try expressing that feeling in a safer way

You could write this down or track it in an app.

Try waiting before you consider self-harm.

Distract yourself by going out for a walk, listening to music, or doing something else harmless that interests you

The need to self-harm may begin to pass over time

Try writing down or saying into a voice recorder app how you are feeling – no one else needs to see this, it is just for you.

Use this app to resist or manage the urge to self-harm through various activities. The app is private and password protected.

Part of the NHS Mental Health app library.

Try calming breathing exercises or other things you find relaxing to reduce feelings of anxiety

Why do people self-harm?

Self harm can affect anyone. It is often a way for people to deal with things going on in their lives, such as being bullied or pressure at school. Sometimes people don’t know why they started.

Common reasons causing someone to self-harm include:

  • To cope with difficult feelings, such as anxiety, anger, depression or numbness
  • Pressure or stress at school, home or work
  • Bullying
  • Sexual, physical or emotional abuse
  • The death of someone you know
  • The breakdown of a relationship
  • Illness or health challenges
  • Low self-esteem
  • To show others how you feel

For other people, the reasons for self-harming may be less clear.

If you don’t understand the reasons for your self-harm, don’t worry – you are not alone. This is something we can discuss with you and support you with.

Self-harm is sometimes seen as the only way to cope or take control, but that’s not true.

Lots of young people say telling someone about their self harm is one of the best ways of coping. It means they haven’t had to deal with everything on their own.

Check out our page on Starting conversations for advice on how to talk to someone you trust about what is going on with you.

Some people believe that self-harm is a method of attention seeking. This is not true.

These comments can make people feel ashamed and alone. Many people who self-harm keep it private because it is painful that other people don’t understand their thoughts and feelings.

Self-harm does not define you – there are lots of other more important things that make you who you are.

Just remember, there is nothing wrong with wanting to have your distress acknowledged and taken seriously by your friends, family and the professionals with whom you are working.

Drink, drugs & self harm

Some people hurt themselves to try and feel more in control of their lives. They may start behaving in ways that may put them at risk, such as starting fights, hanging out in unsafe places or making decisions that put their lives in danger.

This could also include using drugs and alcohol, and sometimes this can make people do things that they wouldn’t do if they were sober. Some people find that drinking alcohol or taking drugs increases the likelihood of self-harm.