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Self-harm

Self-harm is when people hurt themselves or damage their health on purpose. Sometimes people do this in secret. There are lots of different reasons why someone might self-harm, but there are also different ways to cope and get help. TRIGGER WARNING: This page contains information about self-harm which may be triggering.

You don't have to face it alone (self-harm)Why do people self-harm?

There are lots of reasons why young people might self-harm. The need to hurt themselves usually comes from emotions that are very difficult to cope with.

Young people might self-harm because it's a way of releasing tension or anger. It’s a physical pain that they can deal with, rather than an emotional feeling that they find hard to cope with.

It can also be a way of controlling something, especially if they feel that other parts of their life are out of control or they are trapped in a difficult situation. Self-harm can also be used as a form of self-punishment for something that a young person feels bad about.

Feeling alone, experiencing low self-esteem and not feeling good enough in some way can trigger young people to self-harm. Others self-harm to try and break through feeling numb or 'like a zombie'. The reasons for self-harming can be very personal so it's okay if you don't know why you self-harm. You can contact a ChildLine counsellor at any time. They can help you think about the feelings that make you want to self-harm.

In our self-harm survey, young people told us self-harm can be a way of dealing with lots of different things - for example it could be because of bullying, family relationships, anger or loneliness.

How do people self-harm?

Self-harm can include cutting, burning, bruising or poisoning, but doesn't mean that someone wants to take their own life. There are many ways that people self-harm.

These might include:

• Cutting or scratching
• Causing bruises
• Banging their head against a wall
• Pulling out hair
• Burning
• Falling over
• Breaking an arm or leg

  • Who self-harms?

    There are lots of myths about the kind of people who self-harm, however what is clear is that self-harm is something that people from all walks of life can struggle with. This does not depend on your sex, age, religion or background. The important fact to remember is that you are not alone in this. ChildLine is here to listen and support you. You can also go to our self-harm message board to talk to other young people who have experienced similar feelings.

  • What triggers self-harm?

    Everyone has a different trigger for starting to self-harm. Some young people start self-harming after being abused or bullied, or as a reaction to a stressful event. Other young people self-harm because of pressure to do well at school because they feel alone. It doesn't have to be a big thing. An argument or a situation that made them feel embarrassed or left them feeling depressed might lead to someone self-harming.

  • How do I tell someone I'm self-harming?

    Often it can be difficult for someone to understand why they are self-harming, so explaining it to another person can be really hard.

    In our self-harm survey, lots of young people said talking to someone was one of the best ways to cope with wanting to self-harm. Is there someone in your life you feel you could trust and would feel comfortable speaking to? This could be your mum or dad, a teacher, a doctor, or an adult that you feel you can trust.

    Even though talking to someone about an issue can be really difficult, there are some ways to help make talking easier

     Before you tell someone about your self-harm, you could always speak to a ChildLine counsellor first and practise the conversation with them. This can help build your confidence. You might also find it helpful to keep a diary, or to write a letter to the person, which you could share with them when you are ready.

    Unfortunately you can’t guarantee how someone is going to react when you tell them about self-harming. They might find the conversation upsetting or uncomfortable, not know what to say or react in a way you did not expect or do not find helpful. If this happens you can speak to a counsellor at ChildLine who can support you and help you think about your next steps. It’s important to remember that you are never alone and that ChildLine will always be here to listen to you.

  • How do I know if I need medical help after I’ve harmed myself?

    It’s really important that you get medical attention for any injury that’s worrying you. Don’t rely on the internet to get medical advice always go to your doctor or the Accident and Emergency department of your local hospital if you need help urgently. If your life is in danger call 999 straight away.

  • Words of support from young people going through self-harm

    We asked young people to share their messages about self-harm and this is what they said:

    "We are all fighting our own battles and we are all strong enough to win. We just need to believe."

    "There’s no shame in seeking help- it’s better to talk to someone instead of keeping it all inside."

    "Everyone is unique. Let your true colours shine."

    "Stop. Count to ten. Share your feelings with someone you trust when you are ready."

    "Self-harm doesn’t mean I’m weak, it means I’m hurting."

    "You are NEVER alone. It may be hard to tell someone but then at least you know that someone [is] there for you."

    Why not have a look at theself-harm section of our message boards? You can get more support from other young people and even post your own message about self-harm.

  • Self-harm sites and blogs

    There are some sites which encourage people to talk about how to self-harm. Self-harm sites may try to make people self-harm. These can be really dangerous places.

    It may feel like your friends or the adults in your life don’t know what you’re going through. Going on self-harm blogs or posting a picture about self-harm on Tumblr can make someone feel less alone at first – but some self-harm sites can make things even worse. Looking at self-harm images can make you want to hurt yourself even more. These sites can also be addictive and over time they may make it really hard to stop self-harming.

    Even if it feels like nobody knows what you’re going through, there are people out there who want to help you cope with self-harm. You could check out the ChildLine self-harm message boards. People here know what you’re going through and they will never judge you – they can help you cope with wanting to self-harm.

Other sites that can help

Information and advice about mental health
Young Minds

Self-harm: Recovery, advice and support
TheSite.org

Support for young people affected by self-harm
Selfharm.co.uk

You are not alone

Get help and support from other young people on the self-harm message board

Self harm message board

Online chat

Chat to a ChildLine counsellor online in a 1-2-1 session any time you want. Sign up to start talking.

Online chat
Self-harm