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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 can also lead to young people self-harming. 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.

How do people self-harm?

There are many ways that someone might self-harm, including:

• 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 it's clear 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 use our self-harm message board to talk to other young people who have experienced similar feelings.

  • What can lead to self-harm?

    Everyone has a different trigger for starting to self-harm. Some young people start self-harming after being abused or bullied. It could be a reaction to a stressful event. Other young people self-harm because of pressure to do well at school or 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.

    Lots of young people have 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.

    Talking about a serious issue can feel really difficult, so we have some tips on asking for help.  

    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, which you could show the person 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. They might not know what to say or react in a way that you didn't expect or don't 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. It's always better to 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 the self-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 wanting to 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.

    Some people might tag ‘self-harm’ in a post or picture on sites like Tumblr, Twitter or Instagram. Sometimes other people might react in a negative way – even if those posts are about recovering from self-harm. It’s important not to respond to anyone who says negative things about you online. Responding to a nasty comment could make the bullying even worse. Read more about online bullying.

Other sites that can help

Self-harm help page with advice and coping techniques.
YoungMinds

Real life stories, advice and support about self-harm.
TheSite.org

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

Support and information about self-harm from MIND, the mental health charity.
MIND

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 

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