What is Self Harm?
It occurs when someone intentionally and repeatedly harms herself/himself. The method most often used is cutting but other common behaviours include burning, punching, hair pulling, scab picking, and drinking something harmful like bleach or detergent. Other forms of self harm could be getting drunk, doing drugs, getting into fights or getting tattoos and piercings.
Why do people harm themselves?
It is often an attempt to express emotional pain, anger, or frustration that cannot be put into words and acts as a way to take control when things feel like they are out of control.
Self harm is an attempt to get through a painful emotional state of mind. It may be a way of helping someone deal with difficult thoughts and feelings. Sometimes these are about relationships with family and friends, stress, self image, being bullied and being emotionally or physically abused. Although it could be linked to suicidal ideation, self harming is not usually an attempt to commit suicide however it is risky behaviour that can result in unintended serious consequences for the person’s physical or emotional health.
What can I do to help?
It can be really difficult for someone to open up and talk about if they are self-harming. The best thing is not to panic, not to criticise them but offer them the chance to talk about what is going on for them. You could try to find out why they are self-harming, as opposed to being solely interested in the injuries unless those injuries are at risk of infection or life-threatening. It may be that the person who is self-harming doesn’t understand why they are self-harming so just be prepared to listen to them. Trying to force them to stop may make things worse.
Online resources for young people, parents & carers:
- National Self Harm Network – Helpline: 0800 622 6000
- Young Minds
- Adolescent Self Injury Foundation
- Your Space
(References: The Adolescent Self Injury Foundation and Right Here/YMCA Participation project)