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Mental Health

What is Self-Harm?

Bullying can be a major cause of self-harming and is often misunderstood.

What Actually is Self-Harm?

Although sometimes misunderstood as attention seeking, those who self-harm usually do so as a way to cope with deep emotions, distress or traumatic experiences. It can sometimes be a way to try and show how they are feeling; a ‘cry for help’ if they are unable to voice this. It can be a way to relieve unbearable tension, take control of their life and to handle scary emotions, moods, and feelings.

People who self-harm may feel self-hatred and have very low self-esteem. They may also feel sad, anxious, lonely, guilty, numb, disconnected, empty, hopeless, unworthy or trapped. Sometimes the act of self-harming temporarily provides relief from these feelings.

What can I do to stop myself or someone else from self-harming?

It can be hard to break the cycle of self-harm once it starts, and often becomes a regular way to deal with emotions and trauma. It can also be something that someone might revert to in the event of fresh trauma or upset. 

We have an article on safer alternatives to self-harm that you can find here.

Image shows 7 safer alternatives to self harm including taking a cold shower, squeezing a stress-ball and punching a pillow.

If you are concerned that you or someone you care about cannot break the cycle, then reaching out for additional professional support is the best option. There are thousands of registered counsellors around the world who are trained to deal with this issue, and will allow you or the person you are concerned about to get the root causes of why they are doing what they are doing. 

Read this for more information on the kind of support you can get and where you can get it.


How do I talk to someone about self-harm?

Whether it is you wanting to open up to someone, or you want to confront the issue in someone that you care about, discussing a topic such as self-harm can be really tough conversation. Here are a few quick tips:

  1. Pick a safe space
  2. Try not to sound accusatory or defensive
  3. Allow them to express how they feel fairly
  4. And express how you feel about the situation as well
  5. Write some points down if you find it hard
  6. Have a conclusion ready to the conversation

You can find more information on how to have a difficult conversation here.

We have support available here. If you are feeling suicidal or are in a potentially dangerous situation, we strongly advise you to speak to an adult or call 999.

Reach out to a dedicated self-harm organisation like selfharmUK (https://www.selfharm.co.uk)

To speak to someone at times of crisis:

In the UK – call The Samaritans on 116 123, they are there 24 hours a day, every day.

In the USA – call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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