Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves on purpose, normally as a way of releasing or expressing strong feelings because something distressing is going on for them.
Some of the ways people harm themselves include cutting or burning their skin, swallowing tablets or chemicals, misusing drugs and alcohol, and punching themselves. Although some people who self-harm are at a high risk of suicide, many don’t want to end their lives. In fact, the self-harm may help them cope with emotional distress, so they don’t feel the need to kill themselves.
People often try to keep self-harm a secret because of shame or fear of discovery. For example, if they’re cutting themselves, they may cover up their skin and avoid discussing the problem. It’s often up to close family and friends to notice when somebody is self-harming, and to approach the subject with care and understanding.
Young people have found that some of these things have helped when they feel like self-harming:
- distractions, for example going for a walk or run, cleaning the bedroom or listening to music
- breathing or relaxing techniques
- seeing a friend
- delaying – wait five minutes, see how you feel, then wait five more, and so on. Often the strong feelings get a little easier to deal with
- trying a less harmful way of hurting yourself, such as squeezing an ice cube, pinching yourself or flicking an elastic band against the skin.
Off the Record run ‘hARMED’ workshops for people struggling with self-harm or thoughts of self-harm – www.otrbristol.org.uk, 0808 808 9120.
Schools employ a variety of people to look after your wellbeing. Some of the titles of these staff may vary in your school but you will be able to find out about them from a teacher. Most schools have a nurse who will either have a drop-in clinic or you can make an appointment to see them.
GP – you can make an appointment to visit your doctor or a nurse at the surgery to talk about any worries or concerns you have. Call your GP surgery to speak to the receptionist or go there in person. The receptionist will probably ask you who the appointment is for and why; this is to make sure that you see the right person at the right time. You don’t have to tell them why – you can just say it’s for something personal if you like.
If you think you’ll might have difficulty discussing your mental health with your GP, you can find advice about how to prepare How to Talk to Your GP About Mental Health
South Gloucestershire Talking Therapies – free support for people aged 16 and over. https://iapt-sglos.awp.nhs.uk/, 0117 378 4270.
distrACT app: app relating to self-harm, discreet access to information and advice on how you can manage difficult feelings, cope with a crisis and find help and support when you most need it – http://www.expertselfcare.com/health-apps/distract/
Self-injury support: information and support for girls and women who self-harm – helpline 0808 800 8088, text 0780 0472908, www.selfinjurysupport.org.uk.
Samaritans – if something is troubling you call 116 123 or email email@example.com.
ChildLine – free helpline for children and young people to talk about any problem 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk.
The Mix: telephone and email support for under 25’s. Freephone 0808 808 4994 (1pm-11pm), Crisis Messenger 85258, www.themix.org.uk.
Get self-help – free online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) resources, www.getselfhelp.co.uk.
Reading Well: Shelf Help – a list of recommended books to help young people deal with a range of issues, available in all libraries. https://reading-well.org.uk/books/books-on-prescription/young-people-s-mental-health/self-harm
Calm harm app – This app is designed to help people resist or manage the urge to self-harm. It’s private and password protected: https://apps.beta.nhs.uk/calm-harm/